Songs For The Daily Planet

Todd Snider

MCA Records, 1994

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


The transformation of an artist through their career is often a dicey matter. It's hit or miss as to whether they get better, worse, or weirder -- and sadly, in my opinion, American folk-rocker Todd Snider got worse after his 1994 debut, rapidly deciding over his next two CDs to become Tom Petty. Sad, really; there are enough Tom Pettys in the world, and while the original Tom Petty may remain intermittently amusing, imitations begin to pale, quickly. (Unfortunately, the 1995 Tom Petty Limitation Treaty died in committee in the US House.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However, this review isn't about Snider's latest works; it's about his first CD, Songs For The Daily Planet. Snider's viewpoint here was tongue-in-cheek; still a musical outsider, still the country kid, his songs are alternately funny and deeply poetic, light and full of import. This CD is a quick sixty minutes or so of wry story-telling, slack rock, and incisive folk; a sad commentary on what might have been instead of what was and is.

What this CD has that future Snider releases lack is humour. It starts with the backhanded bite of "My Generation (Part 2)," with the immortal chorus "Well, here's to hair gel//Hangin' out at the health spa//Usin' condom sense//And watchin' Arsenio Hall"; a clever, bitter summary of the eighties and what it did-- and didn't-- mean. From there he goes after growing up redneck ("Alright Guy"), Nirvana and grunge music ("Talking Grunge Seattle Blues," the hidden track at the end of the CD), and my personal favorite, picking up girls in bars ("Trouble"). It's really hard not to smile at lines like "When a girl like you walks in a place like this//You can almost hear the promises break".

Snider's more serious work is where he falls short. While the environmental paeon of "This Land Is Our Land" and the straight-ahead barrocker "Turn It Up" work well, his folkier numbers like "You Think You Know Somebody" and "I Spoke As A Child" have all the emotional subtlety of Sally Struthers hawking starving children, bludgeoning where they could cut keenly. Tracks like these were the shape of things to come.

Probably the oddest track on the CD is track eleven, a version of the spiritual "Somebody's Coming." When you hear Snider's gravelly tenor singing "Somebody's coming who's gonna change everything" almost believed it with this CD. While further efforts failed to show any change at all, these thirteen tracks are a pleasant, if occasionally overdone, romp through what might have been.

Rating: B-

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