Release Date: Jun 23, 2009
Record label: Ruth St.
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Country
Drive-By Truckers frontman explores his past, present & future on sophomore solo outing Patterson Hood wrote half the songs on this new album in 1994, fresh off a bitter divorce; the rest he wrote around 2004 while happily married with a newborn child. The resulting collection of story-songs meanders between these distinct moods, hinting at the cynical struggles of Hood’s past and the joy, contentment and optimism he now embraces. This dichotomy is mirrored by the blend of filthy guitars and lucid, hopeful piano on “Pollyanna”; by the scathing sarcasm of “Screwtopia” (a deadpan swipe at suburban emptiness) and the gentle sweetness of “Grandaddy” (Hood’s picture-perfect vision of old age).
Patterson Hood, the leader of the Drive-By Truckers, recorded his first solo album in 2001 as a series of rough four-track demos, and when Killers and Stars finally received an official release in 2004, it sounded like a set of songs too eccentric and too personal to fit in with the Truckers' hard-driving approach, even though the quality of the material was certainly consistent with what he'd created with the group. In many respects, Hood's second solo set, 2009's Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs), is also dominated by songs a little too odd and close to the vest to make it onto a DBT album, but if Killers and Stars sounded heartfelt but tentative, Murdering Oscar is confident and full-bodied, and not just because most of these songs include a full band rather than just Hood and his guitar. With each album, the Drive-By Truckers have shown a willingness to reach for deeper themes, and Murdering Oscar consistently cuts closer to the bone than Killers and Stars; the post-9/11 malaise of "Pride of the Yankees," the wasted but honest romantic plea of "Back of a Bible," and the title tune's tale of a morally elastic hitman are all trickier, more complex, and more satisfying than anything on Hood's solo debut, and even the relatively lightweight numbers like "Walking Around Sense" (addressed to the daughter of a seriously dysfunctional rock star) and "Foolish Young Bastard" show an impressive amount of weight and muscle.
Patterson Hood is one of those songwriters for whom the pen moves faster than the mind. He writes, records, writes, records… like a Jack Kerouac or a Neil Young or a Stephen King, he pours himself out on the page and doesn’t linger much over the result. It’s like a reflex, an unconscious response: just write, sing it out, move on to the next idea.
Patterson Hood's a prolific songwriter, cranking out tunes at a relatively rapid clip, premiering them at solo shows, and posting them to his site. But team player that he is, there's only so much space for Hood's material on each Drive-By Truckers disc, making room for partner in crime Mike Cooley and now contributions from bassist Shonna Tucker as well. It's a balance that pays off, too: last year's Brighter Than Creation's Dark was sprawling and diverse-- and possibly the group's best record.
In his long tenure with the Drive-By Truckers, Patterson Hood has garnered a reputation for being one of the most provocative voices of modern Southern rock. It’s hard to poke any holes in his resume, what with a whole rock opera about Lynyrd Skynyrd, and, given that his father is legendary bassist David Hood, even the man’s genetics are bona fide. What Hood cannot escape, however, is that sometimes he is the third best songwriter in his own band.
THE MARS VOLTA“Octahedron”(Warner Brothers) A few disarming moments on “Octahedron” unfold slowly, with pockets of space and calm. Don’t be lured into trusting them. This album, the fifth studio release by the Mars Volta, employs stillness as a setup for all manner of disruption: sharply pealing riffs, phantasmagorical metaphors, convoluted song structures.