Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Everybody's Rockin' (with The Shocking Pinks)

Second only to Trans in radical weirdness, there is only one rational explanation I've heard heard that justifies the existence of Everybody's Rockin': that the album was something of a tossed-off "fuck you" to David Geffen, head of the record label that Neil was currently on, who had been very vocally complaining that Neil's last two albums had been bad and noncommercial, demanding that Neil release a "rock and roll" album. How else to explain a short, half-assed, seemingly ironic collection of corny rockabilly numbers, about half of which are cover songs?

I just don't get it, man. I can appreciate that Neil was perhaps, much like in his "Ditch Trilogy" era, deliberately shunning mainstream success with confounding, off-putting material. But the difference is, you know, Tonight's the Night is a masterpiece, and Everybody's Rockin' seems like little more than an elaborate goof.

The way I see it, there are two approaches to making a throwback album like this. You either do it ironically, which really would only be amusing for one song and not for an entire album, or you do put your heart in it and try to do it right, corniness be damned. Problem is, I think Neil attempts some sort of combination of the two. At it's best, during some of the cover songs, Neil maybe captures some of the fun and joy of a genre of music that I'm frankly not very fond of. But then he goes and (lovingly?) overdoes it, tracking on a bunch of ridiculous "Ohh-laa-laa" backing vocals and what not, playing up the cheese factor.

Then, on his original tracks, he tends to lay the irony on thick in the lyrics in such a manner that a 50's musician would never do, signaling the album's inexplicably undeniable 80's-ness. Be it the sexual innuendo of "Kinda Fonda Wanda" ("Kinda fonda Wanda/Cuz Wanda always wanna wanna wanna..."), or the silly political allusions of the title track ("When Ronnie and Nancy do the bop on the lawn/They're rockin' in the White House all night long"), the album often shows itself to be the flip side of Trans; the retro and modern elements clash instead of complimenting each other. Even "Payola Blues," a catchy song which better integrates these elements, kinda blows it with its cornball "cash-u-wanna-wanna, cash-u-wanna-wanna" backing vocals.

Perhaps most unforgivable is the album's frankly shitty production, which further suggests that it was rushed to completion with little thought. There's a weird muffled, cheap, echo-y effect on everything, especially the drums and the lead vocals, that makes the entire album sound like it was recorded inside someone's coat closet, or something.

So, of all of Neil's albums, this was the one that I suspected I might actually give an "F." But in giving it a fresh listen, god damn it, I have to admit that I caught myself smiling at "Betty Lou's Got a New Pair of Shoes," and a few other bright spots. It's a stupid, stupid fucking album that may or may not be a practical joke on Neil's record label, but I'd be a cold-hearted man not to admit that it is a little fun in its own way... even if the fun is only mild amusement at its stupid, stupid fucking premise.

Rating: D+

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