I have noticed in my almost twenty-eight years that John Prine’s odd-numbered original releases are the highest quality ones, while releases 2, 4, and now 6 are comparatively lackluster.
Because, really, what the dick is this release all about? It’s some hillbilly blues-rock business where Prine wrote only half of the album’s ten songs. It’s not an impressive arrangement, especially since the covers include the totally one-note “Baby Let’s Play House” and “Cold War (This Cold War With You).” Hint about the last song: their love is like the COLD WAR!! There’s little pathos about, just a lot of slurring. Yes, for no apparent reason Prine (or “Prineypants” as he longed to be called back in those days) takes on the affectation of a mulleted Missourian drunk on Coors Light for all ten songs, so you get the full Americana experience, or something. It’s funny for the first couple songs, but it never ends. Add that to frequent harmonica, old-timey keyboards, and redneck guitar and you’ve got the idea.
Keeping with the drunken hilly billy theme, I’m not sure if playing a song called “Ubangi Stomp” that revolves around saying “Ubangi” a lot is racist, but “I got a hickey from a slant-eyed chickie” sure as fuck is, and, aside from a cute line about “feeling kinda cocky with a head full of sake” that’s the most memorable lyric on the album. Eeeewww.
Prine can’t really help himself from being entertaining (at least not at this point in his career), so despite his best efforts, “Down By The Side Of The Road” and “Automobile” are dang good songs. But but but. Again, what the dick is this album? It plays like an autopilot seventeenth album from someone not named John Prine. Common Sense was at least a good experiment, this one is barely good enough to play on your porch. This whole “three chords to Arlington” thing is pretty lame. Did you know that Arlington doesn’t even have a freaking bus route? I hope you didn’t know that, because it’s a lie. I like John Prine, but sometimes I feel like I’m getting fatter. I did just spend a long weekend eating pizza and drinking beer with Girlfriend. Also, I felt like she was taking too long on the phone to a friend while we were playing pool so I exposed myself in public to get her attention. It didn’t work. Amazingly, I suffered no repercussions whatsoever from this, aside from shame and losing that game of pool. All this unemployed is making me feel like going Jack Kerouac again, like I was eighteen again, only now that’s even less realistic than it was then. I don’t much care for Prine’s style on the front cover of this record. I don’t like these whooping backup vocals either. He looks like Jeff Foxworthy: long, mullet-ish hair, inexplicable mustache and tiny soul patch, blazer and jeans, squinty eyes. Have you ever listened to Ravel’s Bolero two dozen times in one day of bleeding money out of your eyes? “How Lucky” sounds too similar to “That’s the Way That the World blah blah.” But a lot on JP songs do that. I’m tired but I don’t want to face tomorrow. Nah, I like “How Lucky.”