John Prine – In Spite Of Ourselves

JOh NPrine’s gentle recline into senescence continues with this collection of old, twangy duets. Listen up for all the excitement of sitting on the porch with an old man having some lady friends over to sing some country songs. Old-timey ones too, nothing like the country songs that people like John Prine used to play. But if gentle, happy songs about the Grand Ol’ Opry and marriage and cheatin’ lovers.

They’re also all covers, with one exception, and there’s fifteen of them, so it’s one long, sunny afternoon drinking iced tea with those old people. Since they’re covers, there’s no clever Prine lyrics, or clever anything. Boy! It’s hot out here! Ah, the dust, look at it dance in the wind. Don’t stare at the sun too long, it can blind you, just like masturbation. More iced tea? No, we don’t do no drinkin’ around here, not after my brother Brosius got all messed up on hooch a score ago. Now, there’s three kinds of women out there: the ones that love ya, the ones that leave ya, and the ones that cheat ya. The most important thing is to know how to tell them from a glance. Now, Lucinda Williams over here, she’s gone cheatin’ eyebrows. Ain’t that right, Lucinda? No? Hesh your cheatin’ mouth. Cheaters have their wiles, boy, but lovers, like Iris here, she may not hurt you but you still gotta….gotta… what am I saying? Go get your Uncle Prine some more bourbon. Brosius? What’s that? I said bourbon!

The million star exception is the title track, the only track written by Prine, and a strong contender for the best song ever written by my man Johnny, and one of the best songs ever written by anyone. It’s just a duet about a loving relationship, but it conjures all the best of Prine’s personality and sticks it in a chorus that walks the narrow isthmus between the bay of cloying and the sea of glibness. It’s, somehow, an anthem more for antagonistic relationships – “In spite of ourselves / We’ll end up sittin’ on a rainbow / Against all odds / Honey we’re the big door prize / We’re gonna spite our noses right off of our faces / There won’t be nothing but big ol’ hearts dancing in our eyes” – than for normal ones, and that’s what gives it both its edge and its sweetness. The music is simple and catchy and walks the same line, with the one great musical hook on the entire album. The song is so far beyond anything else on the album that one suspects that Prine wrote and recorded the rest of the album to make a bitter point about how he’s above all these old country songs. Worth enough plays to be my #2 played song ever on iTunes (Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” is #1), and I highly encourage any couples looking for a song that won’t make them sick to their stomachs to seek out this one.

This album is like listening to a greatest hits collection by a one-hit wonder. You wait for the one great song, then you play it again, and the rest is completely disposable. Except that ISOI wasn’t a hit, because fuck you, culture. Of course, if Prine was trying to prove that his taste in old country music is boring, then mission accomplished.



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