Album Review: Todd Snider – The Excitement Plan
Todd Snider was never a square, but he did start out as a relatively straight-laced country-rocker with a good sense of humor and a keen ear for the ways word can reinforce melody and vice versa. In recent years–okay, let’s face it: during the Bush Administration–he has really let his freak flag fly, venturing into talking blues numbers that recall Country Joe and venting his outrage with a grin on his face. Snider is the rare artist who was funnier and more entertaining the more political he got, and his proudly pinko worldview made his 2008 EP Peace Queer a compellingly ramshackle affair. As such, he comes across as something of an outsider in his adopted hometown of Nashville, although I think he plans to attack from within.
On his eighth studio album, The Excitement Plan, the imminently quotable Snider comes across like a trippier, even more countrified Randy Newman, except he probably won’t be doing Disney tunes any time soon. The album title comes from Snider’s own economic recovery effort–which seems to involve recreational drugs and recreational troublemaking–and is populated with his particular brand of dignified misfits; the bumbling killer in “Unorganized Crime” and the beaten-up optimist in “Doll Face” are quintessential Snider characters, as is Dock Ellis, the Pittsburgh Pirate who pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. On “America’s Favorite Pastime,” Snider has a blast with the imagery: “Taking the ground, the mound turned into the icing on a birthday cake,” he sings. “The lead-off man came up and turned into a dancing rattlesnake.” But Snider isn’t advancing a pro-drugs agenda–okay, maybe a little–but he’s more interested in recounting a weird moment in our shared pop-cultural history.
Snider recorded The Excitement Plan with producer Don Was, who sets these songs to rambunctious live accompaniment. The pair assembled a small backing band and recorded the disc in two-and-a-half days and with minimal rehearsals, which gives the collection the casual verve of a Sunday afternoon jam session. On “Bring ‘Em Home,” the album’s catchiest song, they put some real snap in Snider’s pop hook, and they swing loosely on “Barefoot Champagne” and its implied sequel “Don’t Tempt Me.” Loretta Lynn co-wrote the latter and plays Snider’s romantic foil, and they’re a hoot together: Over a rolling, rollicking piano line, he comes across as all shaggy nonchalance, and she’s all brassy disregard, as if she’s seen all too many shaggy nonchalants in her time.
Of course, Snider is not only his most complex character, but also his biggest loser, and much of The Excitement Plan is devoted to the kind of candid soul searching you wish every other guy with a guitar could pull off. But Snider just makes them look like they don’t have a soul to search. For all his trouble-making, flipping-off-The-Man ways, he wonders if perhaps he might not be too old for the possession charges and jail cells. “How do you know when it’s too late to learn,” he wonders aloud on “Greencastle Blues,” which finds him handcuffed uncomfortably and waiting for bail. On the other hand, he also remarks, “You know the number-one symptom of heart disease is sudden death,” which sounds all the wiser for being a bit elusive.
Make your trouble while you can—you never know when your time is up. That’s the epiphany implied on the shambling valedictory closer “Good Fortune”: “When you stand back and look at the long and the short of it,” Snider sings, “what else is there to do but sing.”
- Greg Howe: I enjoy the many fall festivals in southwest Ohio.
- Elizabeth Linder: I love sitting by a bond fire with my husband making s'mores and drinking hot chocolate.
- Jeremy Dylan: One might say that a good way to pay tribute to RCA Studio a would be to not demolish it …
- willard willams: Oct. 10, as that is our wedding anniversary. Will be 50 years and I still remember.
- Both Kinds of Music: What an excellent team-up.
- Pam Wallace: A day like yesterday,...driving through Ohio countryside with leaves beginning to turn and cows lying in the pastures because every …
- Jackie Lester: My favorite part of autumn is seeing wooly bear caterpillars!
- Mike harris: Love fall with the warm glow of the sun and all the beautiful fall colors
- Richrd Simerson: Love good old bluegrass music
- Six String Richie: Studio A will be replaced with a dog park, condos and restaurants. Gentrification at it's finest.