Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't the trees look like crucified thieves?

If one musical artist has changed my life in any way, it would probably have to be Warren Zevon. I guess this is strange since he isn't my favorite recording artist of all time. He is easily in the top five or so. Anyway, there is something mystical and honest and amazing about Warren Zevon's songwriting abilities. His sarcasm is something I can relate to and his melancholy romantic side is definitely relatable too. He may be sarcastic and cynical, but he's a romantic at heart. There is no better album to show this duality than his amazingly genius self-titled record. Warren Zevon shows so many sides of his abilities and on his first real outing as a studio solo artist that it boggles my mind that it isn't more popularly known as a work of genius.

Zevon travelled in strange circles of friends in L.A. Strange, to me, because I kind of hate everyone that worked with him. Fleetwood Mac is #1 on my least favorite bands of all time list. The Eagles are #2 on that list. Jackson Browne is on the list of least favorite solo artists. Then why the Hell should I like Warren Zevon? Because the man knows how to write a song. As he once said himself, "I'm not a musician, I'm a poet." Although he can write a great piano line and a great melody, he is more known to do with the stroke of a pen or a type of his Smith Corona what any great musician can do with their instrument of choice.

All that aside, Zevon is more than just words that I can relate to. It also reminds me of my childhood. Even though Excitable Boy was more of a childhood favorite as my dad had a cassette tape of that, it was upon discovering Warren Zevon that everything clicked. It was the desperation and romanticism in songs like "Hasten Down the Wind" and "The French Inhaler" that really hit you in the heart strings and the cynical and self-depricating "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" that makes you laugh at yourself while still realizing that not everything is so great. We all have these dark undersides that we don't share with everyone. And Warren Zevon knows how to manipulate these moments and make them beautiful and haunting. The pinnacle track, "Desperadoes Under the Eaves" is where this comes to fruition. The melodic beauty of the reprisal of the main musical parts in "Frank and Jesse James" slowed down and orchestrated is just wonderful. The track shows a man desperate, drunk and hallucinating as his life seems to wallow. But the images of "crucified theives" and the "sun looking angry through the trees" just flow with such elegance and brilliance you can't help but be stuck in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel with Warren. Even the peppier sounding songs are sad! "Mama Couldn't Be Persuaded" and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" are just as downtrodden as the rest of them, yet more fun to listen to with their rollicking musical performances.

I listened to this album a lot in the later years of high school on and it really just works beautifully with anyone who can relate to a cynical romantic. I guess what can be said about my personality is that I see a lot of Warren Zevon's words in myself. Maybe not all the drinking and drugs and such, but the trouble and desire elements. I cna equate Warren Zevon to Hal Hartley in a way here. Their ideas of adventure and romance are drizzled in the darker parallels of trouble and desire. And who in their right mind is suspect of falling into this pitfalls throughout their lives?

1. The Who - Tommy
2. Beck - Odelay
3. Television - Marquee Moon
4. Weezer - Pinkerton
5. Brian Eno - Before & After Science
6. Wilco - A Ghost is Born
7. The Beatles - Rubber Soul
8. Grand Funk Railroad - Closer to Home
9. Foo Fighters - The Colour & The Shape
10. Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection
11. Interpol - Turn On the Bright Lights
12. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
13. Jeff Buckley - Grace
14. Warren Zevon

Up Next: Black Mountain - In the Future

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