Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hey honey, I shrunk Ian Hunter

On Ian Hunter's latest studio album, the phenomenal 'Shrunken Heads', what you get is a collection of confession songs fueled by acoustic and electric guitars, piano and heartfelt sentiment. This is Hunter at his most outspoken. It's his take on Americana but done in his own style, and it's brilliant.

It's been light years since his days in Mott The Hoople, and even the distant thunder of one of his first solo albums - 'All American Alien Boy' featuring the classic ballad 'Irene Wilde' - it's a sequin footnote to the grassroots of 70's glam rock rock'n'roll history.

'Shrunken Heads' could possibly be Hunter's most convincing solo album to date. Always a Brit at heart, the new album is a golden snapshot of America, the good, the bad and the ugly (but predominantly the bad and the ugly).

"Nothin' matters any more," growls Hunter during the start of the title track. "The rich get richer, and the poor get sorer. This house is haunted and the streets are dead. We're all at the mercy of shrunken heads." The song is another disfunctional ballad from rock's greatest wordsmith. It's emotionally compelling, and it makes you start thinking about how fucked up living in the USA can be.

This is the kind of album where it's difficult to encapsulate into a short review, mainly because every song is fantastic. Ian Hunter doesn't know how to write a bad song. He delivers a rock'n'roll dirge anthem in the shape of 'How's Your House' - an insight into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "Crept across the border, got a mobile home," sings Ian. "Hurricane Katrina sunk me like a stone yeah. Now I'm runnin' outta water, there's nothing left to eat. Kitchen's on the car 'n it's floating down the street."

Guilty pleasures creep in with 'Stretch', a bar room rock'n'roll throwback to Hunter's seminal 'Overnight Angels' album. The drums are pounding, the guitars could have been played by the late Mick Ronson, while the ragtime piano is classic Hoople. Then suddenly you get visions of his earlier Hoople classic, 'All The Young Dudes', and that's when you begin too realise that's it's a no-brainer. Ian Hunter is a genius.

He closes the album with a simple, poignant, piano and vocal ballad 'Read 'em 'n' Weep'. It's a typical relationship gone bad song, but it's sung from the heart. While a lot of today's new bands try their best to impress, the one key thing they all lack is the ability to write consistently compelling songs. Where will Brandon Flowers be 30 years from now?

Ian Hunter's been doing it for 35 years, and while other artists like the Stones ran out of steam in the mid 70's, Hunter continues to get better with age. 'Shrunken Heads' is a milestone.

No comments: