Nightman Listens To – Jackson Browne – Pretender (Top 1000 Albums Series)

Greetings, Glancers. We’re up through the Sphincter of Musical Past once again and ironically have stumbled across some Brown. Or Browne. Jackson Browne, that is. Isn’t Jackson Browne a painter? What a loads of Pollocks. If it wasn’t clear already, I’m completely new to this boyo and this album, at least from a listening perspective, so I’m not sure what to expect. It’s about time I found something I’ll love though. These are supposed to be the best of the best, but so far this experience has been kind of like hearing your neighbours have sex when you’re a teen – you think it’s alluring and hot, and you want to listen more, but you remember they are both disgusting and frighteningly obese and too hairy. Or less alarmingly, it kind of feels like when you’re stuck with a roommate or friend who insists on playing you ‘their music’ and you just know you’re going to hate it but have to pretend otherwise. Anyway, on the surface this sounds more promising, more than all that Jazz muck anyway.

What Do I Know About Jackson Browne: Another folk singer who popped up in the sixties or seventies and probably sang about love and loss and hippies. I know I’ve heard some of his bigger songs.

What Do I Know About The Pretender: Nada

The Fuse: Tst. Tst. Tst. Piano. Shadows, nice, already my sort of thing. Vocals. Sorts very traditional American. And right on cue there’s the country sounds. Drum sound isn’t great. And right on cue he talks about a drum. A little bit of Disco in there too. Quite a lot going on here, speeding up, pausing, different sounds and styles. On first listen I like it, but it’s not quite ticking all the boxes for me. I love the main piano part, the faster pieces not so much. It then turns into Baywatch. It then turns into Welcome To The Machine. 

Your Bright Baby Blues: Slow. More Springsteen stylings. Organ. People going places fast, that old trope. It’s nice, not a lot to this one. But it’s nice. Sounds like a bunch of other average songs though – those songs you know you know but can’t name. Guitar solo. Maybe it’s a bit too close to country or something. Again it’s good but it’s lacking whatever it is that makes me truly love a song. That being said, both songs so far I’d happily listen to again and presumably they’d grow on me.

Linda Paloma: Harps and weirdness. Or some Spanish equivalent. Was going to say it sounded Greek or Italian as it makes me think of The Godfather, but then he said something about Mexico. Easy chugging chords in the background. Nice again. There’s a little vocal move he’s done in every song so far, you know, turning the last syllable into three. That’s the sort of thing I pick up on and get annoyed by. I can’t think of anything better word to describe than nice – it’s not doing anything for me emotionally, but it’s pleasant to hear.

Here Come Those Tears Again: Nice start. Piano mixing with guitar and drums again. Beats. Organ. Disco beats again. Backing vocals. Good guitar. I’m not sure if this is supposed to emotional – the lyrics suggest it is, but the music is pretty cheery. Maybe it’s his voice – it’s never strained and rarely varies. I prefer a little more distinction in my vocals.

The Only Child: You already know. Nice. I like this one in its opening few seconds better than the others though. Maybe it’s the strings and slower pace. Oh dear, it’s sped up. Most of lyrics are fine. I think his voice is definitely part of why it’d just not clicking, along with the weak drums and the country twinge. It feels like the sort of song Southern State US jocks don’t mind shedding a tear or two to. Heh. Tutu.

Daddy’s Tune: Same again, waiting for the drums and speed. Something about regretting relationship with dad, and not saying what you should when you could. This doesn’t really sit well with me because I regret everything I’ve ever said to anyone, usually the instant it’s out of my mouth. Oh God, where did those trumpets come from? It’s all a bit cheesy. It’s starting to annoy me now, this need to suddenly kick off the drums, almost as if he’s trying to appease an audience that isn’t interested in softer music. Or maybe this was his Daddy’s music and he’s doing it on purpose. I don’t think so. That’s two songs in a row which started perfectly well then fell apart completely.

Sleep’s Dark And Silent Gate: Cool name. Good opening. He knows how to start a song and suck you in. But he also knows how to kick you in the nuts and then laugh in your face for thinking it was going to be something you’d enjoy. At least there’s a bit of gruff in his voice in this one. This one is more pure, no backing drum shite. Phew, made it to the end without any bullshit, good job.

The Pretender: Sounds like the opening track, or what I remember of it. More lyrics. I suppose this spoke for a generation, it doesn’t really speak for me though even though we face the same struggles. This one is a little too plain and again I don’t feel the emotion.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 509/1000

What Did I Learn: That Jackson Browne isn’t just a folk singer with a guitar and has packed in much more depth from a musical perspective. That he’s a good lyricist, but that I don’t love his voice or connect emotionally with his songs as others no doubt will.

Does The Pretender Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, I want to like it and given time I’m sure it would grow on it. But when comparing it something equally lauded by Springsteen or Joni Mitchell it fall short for me. The country hues never sit well with me so we’re already on a tumbling scale and Browne’s voice is too plain for me – it lacks the anger or sadness or raw power or rasp or unique quality that affects me on a personal level. On first listen, I’ve liked it more than some other albums I’ve encountered on the journey but it feels less important or revolutionary than those. It’s a no from me, but it’s fine.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Pretender. Does this album hold special value for you, or is it one you’ve never heard?

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