Tuesday, April 17, 2007

album of the day

Genius: The Best Of Warren Zevon.

Ever seen The Colour Of Money? You know, Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, a sort of sequel to the (much) earlier Newman vehicle The Hustler, won Newman a belated Best Actor Oscar, a bit crap, Cruise as irritating as ever, etc., etc. One of Cruise's most self-satisfied and irritating bits, though, is when he dances round a pool table to the strains of Werewolves Of London, by, yes (you knew there was a point to these ramblings), Warren Zevon.

It's a terrific song, with its thumping piano riff and twisted lyrics, and falls into what I term Category 1 among Warren Zevon songs, these being the sardonic rockers, category 2 being the gently sentimental ballads. Category 1 examples: the aforementioned Werewolves of London, Poor Poor Pitiful Me, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, Excitable Boy ("He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom / Excitable boy, they all said / And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home / Excitable boy, they all said / Well, he's just an excitable boy"), Lawyers, Guns And Money, Boom Boom Mancini, Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, Mr. Bad Example.

Category 2 examples: Carmelita, Reconsider Me, Searching For A Heart.

Actually there is a Category 3 as well: the slightly more contemplative songs written late in his career, the last few of which would have been written in the sure and certain knowledge of his own impending death from lung cancer (he died in September 2003) - ones like Mutineer, I Was In The House When The House Burned Down and Genius. Some of the rockier numbers are a bit lumpy and synth-heavy and 1980's in their arrangements, but the lyrics are pure gold.

Further thoughts: the album Mr. Bad Example included a couple of songs later used as the titles of works in other artistic media: Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead (film starring Andy Garcia, among others), and Quite Ugly One Morning (book by Christopher Brookmyre). Also - the list of great rock songs about boxing is a pretty short one, but Boom Boom Mancini is right up there. Actually I can't think of any others, apart from maybe Hurricane by Bob Dylan, and that isn't really about boxing at all. And, erm, The Boxer by Simon And Garfunkel, I suppose. And Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School is one of the best album titles ever.

Anyway, unless you want the 44-track retrospective I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, this is the compilation to go for. Nice set of sleeve notes by fellow substance-abusing wordsmith Will Self, as well.

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