Todd Snider (from the album First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder) on Thirty Tigers/Aimless Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Todd Snider has a well-deserved reputation for being a snarky smartass, a singer prone to poke fun at life’s little absurdities, mostly with what sometimes seems like a stoner’s perspective. So given the title of his new album, First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder, one might suspect that his fans are in for more of the same. In fact, Snider leaves folks guessing again, thanks to a set of songs fueled by Funk, sometimes filtered through Hip-Hop and consistently conveyed courtesy of a parched vocal that sounds like the late Dr. John attempting to temper his hoodoo in a weary sort of way.
On the other hand, there are some serious sentiments involved as well. The call and response exchange shared in “That Great Pacific Garbage Patch” provides an environmental warning that’s clearly serious in nature but obscured by the song’s persistent pulse. Likewise, Snider’s sentimental salute to John Prine, “Handsome John”, provides a tender touch that offers an emotional embrace that’s resilient and resolute. “Sail On, My Friend” takes a similar tack, an assuring offering meant to cheer those suffering from the depression and distancing that’s afflicted so many people in these tumultuous times.
Nevertheless, those are rare moments of respite. “Battle Hymn of the Album,” “Turn Me Loose (I’ll Never Be the Same)”, and The Get Together” boast rock-steady rhythms that often sound like tribal chants. “Stoner Yodel Number One” seems to sum up the mindset that fosters it all, although any actual messaging is open to interpretation. When Todd Snider resorts to a rap on “Agnostic Preacher’s Lament” while attempting to excise his emotions, it doesn’t necessarily illuminate his intent.
To his credit however, Snider attempts to offer some background and explanation in the liner notes that precede the lyrics for each song. That said, the most clear cut and concise messaging is stated simply in the opening lines of the opening track, “Turn Me Loose (I’ll Never Be the Same)”.
‘Put your foot on the rock and push it ’til the good times roll’.
All the serious concerns aside, Todd Snider shows he’s intent on doing just that. (by Lee Zimmerman)
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