- 29 Oct 19
Back To The Future With The Psychedelic Waylon
When Simpson broke through with his second solo album, 2014’s great Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, it seemed he was here to re-inject some outlaw into a genre that the music city conveyor belt of trucks and hats tunes had scrubbed clean. He had no interest in standing still though, incorporating a distinct Southern soul influence and even covering Nirvana on the Grammy-winning letter-to-his-son concept album follow-up, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth.
He gleefully drives the Trans Am right off the Nashville reservation here though. What we get are old-fashioned, analogue sounding synths and plenty of fuzzed-out guitars. Imagine Eliminator-era ZZ Top or The Cars, produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, and you’d be nearly there.
The album is paired with a Simpson-penned anime Netflix movie, which might explain titles like opening instrumental ‘Ronin’. The urban blues of ‘Remember To Breathe’ finds Simpson “staying off the radar, like a bomber on the run” until the screaming guitar gives away his position, and the near-disco boogie of ‘A Good Look’ is a co-write with John Prine, but you wouldn’t guess that in a thousand years. Tracks like ‘Fastest Horse In Town’ are just a little too far out there, but stick with this record and songs start to emerge.
‘All Said And Done’ mines a similar seam to The Black Keys’ more introspective moments, and ‘Make Art Not Friends’ – a title that perfectly sums Simpson’s intentions - the music business-berating ‘Mercury In Retrograde’, and the ELO-on-meth shuffle of ‘Last Man Standing’ could have, with more traditional arrangements, fitted on those earlier records.
I doubt this is ever going to be my favourite Simpson record – and I love the guy - but you’ve got to applaud an artist who follows his muse as resolutely as this and refuses to be corralled.