- 28 Feb 20
The State Of The Union
Any band that can throw out something as rockin' as, say, ‘3 Dimes Down’ from 2011’s Ugly Buildings, Whores and Politicians will always be alright by me, and when you hear that Drive-By Truckers recorded The Unraveling in Memphis at the Sam Philips Recording Service, you’re pretty sure you’ve got another winner. However, when you read that the band are trying to “confront America’s present turmoil through song” you might pause before pressing play, and you might even think about pressing stop altogether during downbeat opener, ‘Rosemary With A Bible And A Gun’.
Keep going though, and you get to ‘Armageddon’s Back In Town’ which is a good trash-out that wouldn’t have disgraced The Replacements, and ‘Slow Ride Argument’ may remind some listeners of the more boisterous end of REM’s catalogue, which is a good or a bad thing, depending where you’re sitting. The nearly-acoustic ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ is a great idea for a song, it’s a ridiculous, empty phrase that deserves a kicking. “Stick it up your ass with your useless thoughts and prayers” indeed.
‘21st Century USA’ is a mid-paced meditation on small town life decimated by economic downturn that’s lifted by pedal steel and violin, and the band’s disgust at the daily news comes out again in ‘Babies In Cages’. The song has a bang of Neil Young off it and features a washboard put through wah and delay pedals, and you don’t get many of them to the pound.
Their hearts are all obviously in the right place as the rail against the “evils in the world” and surely more American bands should be screaming out against the direction their country has taken over the last few years. That being said, songs like ‘Heroin Again’ and ‘Grievance Merchants’ just kind of plod along, and the closing eight minutes of ‘Awaiting Resurrection’ feels a lot longer. Protest songs are a noble and worthy pursuit, but they can be hard to tap a toe to.