Trust Jim White to come up with what is just about the strangest genre ever, Geriatric Rockucana. It’s his (tongue in cheek) description of this motley collection of songs, written over the years but knocked back by the pen pushers who reckoned they were too Jim White like for a commercial Jim White release. At least they weren’t like Geffen who tried to sue Neil Young for not sounding like Neil Young. Anyhow, songs in hand, White decamped to Antwerp to whip them into shape and the resultant album is perhaps his most varied, certainly his most exuberant album in a while. Sure enough, there is a steady whiff of his usual southern gothic musings throughout the album but there’s also a fine balance between what one expects from White and some new ventures.
The opening Monkey In A Silo is a typical White song pepped up with parping horns and a Farfisa organ sound as he steps into a fevered drug users’ dreamscape and if that mention of a monkey reminds one of The Pixies, then White delivers an excellent Pixies’ like churn on Fighting My Ghosts Again. Even more so, White delivers the dramatic chiascuro of Smart Ass Reply, a song which he describes as being inspired when he had to choose between Alice Cooper and Jesus way back in 1973.
Given that most of the songs are vintage, it’s no surprise that several of them hark back to White’s groundbreaking debut, Wrong-Eyed Jesus, in terms of their structure. The Mystery Of You might contain more bluster but it’s not too far from the majesty of the songs on that album. Likewise, there’s the sly funk of Where Would I Be and the sonic weirdness of Highway Of Lost Hats. The pinnacle is the rattling boned My Life’s A Stolen Picture which has kenspeckle banjo jutting out from a muscular rythym section as White roams through popular American culture as if it were a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
The closing song is presumably a recent write. The Divided States Of America ditches much of the paraphernalia which accompanies the earlier songs as White, singing straightforwardly, eschewing his distorted mics, acutely describes the current state of the union. His speech at the end is passionate and quite uplifting.