John Prine – Storm Windows

Keeping up Prine’s wacky alternating good and bad albums trick, this one’s back to being enjoyable after the last one was a confuzzling mess. But don’t water your camels yet: this one’s still nowhere near the level of the first bunch o’ albums. It’s still just ten often underwritten, udnerwhelming slices of country tinged rock ‘n’ roll.

First, let I discus the musical action. Every song has a full on band of studio musicians filling up all the space with lame 70s rock. You know the type – midtempo electric guiars, twangy steel guitar, bar-rock piano everywhere. Worse, the “rock” songs tend to be the outright filler and thus even more noxious, while all the riffs are terrible uncatchy and can’t save the uninteresting songs they’re unhappily attached to. It all sounds quite corporate and soulless, without the benefits of corporate soullessness.

But hey, that’d all be fine if Prine could get back his penchant for witty, poignant, yet cynical lyrics. And he does on like…four songs. Those also tend to be the best songs musically too, so hurrah for those. By far the most interesting lyrically is “Living in the Future,” a clever thoughtski on failures of predictions of technological advances mixed with some absurdity, with the redneck bar-rock accompanied by a fiddle solo (hurrah!). Next, the folky duo of the all-knowing “It’s Happening To You” and the cute “Sleepy Eyed Boy” are straight up poignant loveliness. From then on the shitty music levels out the remaining clever words.

Part of the problem is that Prine songs used to apply his gift for sounding like the cool uncle to serious topics, and reveal himself to be the smart uncle as well. Now he’s older and doesn’t sound like any kind of uncle at all. The sentiments are remarkably dry even when I like the songs – “Just Wanna Be With You” or “It’s an all night blue / Wondering who’s loving you” are among the trite sentiments that drive entire songs.

Then there are the throwaways, including the egregious opener, “Shop Talk.” Four or five of the songs here sound like nothing in particular, and the title track is the most vague “yep, life sure is something” song I’ve heard in forever, and that 80s hair metal doesn’t help it any. Not that it isn’t enjoyable, but it’s nothing exciting.

And he really needs to do something about that facial hair. It looks like an overhead view of a flying goose. Plus the mullet. JP did not take his early thirties well.

6 / 10

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