Shrunken Heads

Ian Hunter

Yep Roc, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Stones, schmones.

Everybody likes to hold the Rolling Stones up as some sort of amazing fountain of youth.  “Man, they’re in their sixties and they’re still huge!”  More accurate would be to say that they’re in their sixties and still milking the media machine like the pros they’ve become.  The Stones have been more about marketing than music for over half their career now.

Ian Hunter, by contrast, is of similar vintage to the Stones but just keeps getting better musically.  Well into his sixties he is in fact making some of the best music of his long and storied career.

Hunter’s early splash as frontman for legendary glam-rockers Mott The Hoople has been well-documented elsewhere.  What has been less-chronicled is his exemplary solo career, starting with 1975’s self-titled disc, through his 1979 commercial high-water mark You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic (remember “Cleveland Rocks”?) and all the way up through 2001’s stirring, sharp-as-ever my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Rant.

If there’s a secret to Hunter’s gift it’s in the mixture of raw honesty and cheeky British charm he brings to his incisive songs.  Opener “Words (Big Mouth)” is a strong example of both, a self-deprecating confession that’s both witty (“Words… nasty little lizards… grammatical bacteria… Yakety-yakety-yakety-yakety”) and tinged with a wistful self-knowledge.  The music here, as throughout this disc, is smartly-arranged roadhouse blues-rock, acoustic rhythm guitar embellished with punchy electric leads, organ, piano, and on “Words,” Springsteen sidewoman Soozie Tyrell on violin.

In this typically rich and intelligent outing, Hunter skewers both designer materialism (“Brainwashed”) and his own aging perspective on the world (“I Am What I Hated When I Was Young”), while also ripping out a hard-rocking yet nuanced ode to a troubled friend (“Stretch”).  On Shrunken Heads, though, he saves his most potent verbal broadsides for the Bush Administration, lashing out with numbers like the rollicking “Fuss About Nothin’,” the surprisingly poignant title track, and the thundering Hurricane Katrina response indictment “How’s Your House?”  Expatriate Englishman Hunter isn’t about to concede his affection for his adopted homeland to anyone, though.  On “Soul Of America” he pounds out an anthemic love letter to the USA every bit as sincere and potent as any of Springsteen or Mellencamp’s forays into similar territory.

Another of Hunter’s underappreciated talents is pacing and sequencing.  Yes, there are several angry, politically inclined songs on this disc, but they are interspersed with (and leavened by) a trio of Hunter’s trademark heartfelt ballads, including the soaring, magnificent “When The World Was Round” and the stunning closer “Read ‘Em And Weep,” which deserves a place among the finest tunes he’s ever written. 

There isn’t a weak moment to be found on Shrunken Heads, which has been nominated for Album of the Year by Classic Rock Magazine.  The conclusion is unmistakable: leave the stunt-marketing to Mick and Keith, and leave the music to Ian Hunter.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I hear he's almost done with his next CD. Amazing music, amazing band, buy the CD.

Here's a video from the CD if you want proof:

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© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Yep Roc, and is used for informational purposes only.