Thursday, February 28, 2008

Detours - Sheryl Crow

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At what point do you stop becoming a "fan" of an artist? For a brief moment around 1997/98 Sheryl Crow was my favourite artist. So you would think that with her first three albums ranging from excellent to merely rather good I would be a fan for life.

But then we have two really rather poor albums (plus a totally perfunctory Live album that was the absolute pits) and as I walk into HMV to buy Detours I find myself tussling with the question of whether I am a fan of Crow anymore, or mererly a curious bystander seeing if this time around is going to be better than the last two occasions. The fact I'm even considering the question doesn't bode well.

Thankfully, Detours is her best album in a decade. Granted that's not saying an awful lot, but it's a good place to start. Unfortunately one can't really say that it's up there with her best work.

At least with Bill Bottrell at the helm, Crow is back to doing what she does best after the misguided Wildflowers. Recent single Love Is Free might have been almost universally ignored but its the kind of lilting up-tempo semi-rocker that Crow excels at.

The problem is that the album starts off on a decidedly low-fi note. Now that may be designed to make you listen more carefully to the lyrics on God Bless This Mess, but therein lies another strike against Crow for me.

It takes precisely one minute 50 to sink us to the first "Anti-War, Anti-George Bush" lyrics and immediately my heart sinks. My own personal opinions are irrelevant; I quite simply don't like being preached to by multi-million earning pop stars. Sadly there are more than a few occasions during the album where I'm willing to start loving the tunes, before the lyrics drag me down into despair.

Granted, given what she's gone through over the past few years, Crow is perfectly at liberty to write about she wants to. It doesn't mean that I have to listen to it with any great pleasure. Which is a shame; occasionally Crow strikes the right balance. Love Is Free for instance is a great pop song, only subtly revealing itself as lyrically concerned with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina after a number of listens. Compare this with Gasoline, which to my mind is one of the most cringeworthy songs I've heard in a long time.

I'm quite willing to state it may well be my own personal taste that finds the lyrics a distraction. Many might find them insightful (at least in some parts) and might applaud their sentiments. And I might if I were watching Miss Crow on Question Time. On record, depsite the tunes being up there with her best in quite a few parts, it's all too easy to flip the skip button.

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