Welcome to a new regular feature in which I’ll wax eloquenescent about music, one song at a time. Generally, I’ll be highlighting my favorites and exposing to the type of serious analysis that rarely exists these days.
Today, however, we’re starting with a clunker from our local “classic rock” station’s newly expanded playlist: Joe Walsh’s The Confessor
The what? Right, this isn’t one of his more famous releases, and with good reason. It was released in 1985, just as the combined forces of MTV and the post-punk/New Wave movement were kicking up some creative material. Walsh, a few years removed from the last Eagles album, went wildly in the other direction, relinquishing his title as an amiable clown prince of rock to make a ponderous piece of music that would’ve been right at home as a forgettable release of 1975. (I’ll never find a link, but I recall a review at the time saying no one ever told Walsh the 70s had ended.)
In a bizarre effort to make a Grand Statement, Walsh plods along, interspersing stale guitar work with clumsy lyrics that would make a high school English teacher quit. The song has no real form, giving the impression that Walsh went into the studio with no idea what to do and racked his brain to think of the next verse or guitar lick. (I have experience with such things, spending the last day of my pre-Duke existence recording the infamous titletrack Puke for our high school “band” when David Broussard told me we had a few minutes left over on the tape.)
It was a curious career move for Walsh, who had carved out a fine niche for his post-Eagles career. MTV gave decent plays to the videos from his previous release — I Can Play That Rock & Roll featured him slowly destroying a hotel room under the pretense of trying to kill a fly, and Space Age Whiz Kids was a fun rant about the video-game obsessions of, well, kids like me. (Imagine what he’d say about today’s NBA players.) This made perfect sense for someone whose pre- Eagles work had included the classic self-parody Life’s Been Good (and the less amusing Rocky Mountain Way, which suffered from the same listless production that dragged down so many Warren Zevon releases).
That’s not to say Walsh was nothing but a comic. His early work with the James Gang produced a couple of memorable songs — I’d love to rummage through MTV’s archives to find the old live clip of that group playing a version of Walk Away that outsizzles the studio version.
These days, Walsh deserves his place on the lucrative nostalgia circuit. But if he breaks out The Confessor, it’s time to check the concession lines.