Ian Hunter, the ex-Mott the Hoople mainman, brings us the most American, most "grown-up" rock 'n' roll album of the year. And what a sweet, hook-filled gem it is.
His last, 2001's Rant, had a decidedly British political tint to it Shrunken Heads is 100 percent made-in-the-USA.
With guitarist Andy York (Hunter's current Mick Ronson-like sidekick), the tunes run the traditional Hunter path from ominous rockers ("Stretch") to plaintive ballads ("Guiding Light") to power-popping longing for simpler times ("When the World Was Round"). The country rag-time flavor of "I Am What I Hated When I was Young" finds Hunter riffing (rather characteristically) wittily about growing up, only to learn that he's come full circle: "I'm the original mixed-up kid, I ain't proud of what I did."
The album's centerpiece, "Soul of America," is the national anthem for these times. While he's supportive of the safety of trenched U.S. kids in Iraq, those "wild-eyed boys; red white and blue," Hunter's equally critical of those "good-old boys in their three-piece suits, feathering their nests while rallying the troops."
Though he's British-born, Hunter's an honorary Yank; he understands the American soul, and is a keen Dylanesque observer of it: "You can find soul all over this land, except in the places it oughta be."
In the end, Hunter's finest talent is his ability to express the sentiments of many, both as Americans and human beings, and his songs offer faith in vulnerable and disturbing times. Besides, they sound perfectly fantastic with the top down on a spring-summer evening. Let's rock the soul of America!
Friday, June 8, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward, Ferndale; 248-544-3030.
Ricky Phillips writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].