Sit someone down and play them ‘The Snake King’ without telling them who the artist is, and no-one would guess that it was Rick Springfield, especially when it gets to some of the more dark moments on what is a thought-provoking album. Rick Springfield, yeah? ‘Jessie’s Girl’, ‘Human Touch’… power pop. That Rick Springfield? Taking on religion, faith, politics, the state of the world, and suicide, Springfield is hardly taking the easy route on his latest album, and at this stage in his long career, I say well done. Why play it safe? The multi-platinum awards are already stacked up somewhere, so be true to yourself, and ruffle some feathers while you are at it. Lyrics are open to different interpretations, but God knows (pun intended) what America will make of some of the song titles and the lyrics. The opening lines on the album “The priest wears a black eye-patch and fake Prada perfume” who also wears a black eye-patch? Pirates that’s who. Just when I’m thinking that perhaps I’m reading too much into the line, the White House gets both barrels: “Cyclops in the White House understands it, keeps everyone snowblind from the great west wing. He knows the rules don’t apply here in the snake pit”, and that’s just the opening song, ‘In The Land Of The Blind’. How about ‘Jesus Was An Atheist’ – “Jesus was an atheist, he was a friend of mine. We became friends, it was the best of both worlds, I was good at stealing silver, he was good at pulling girls”, or ‘The Devil That You Know’ – “I had a talk with Jesus. I said man, you just part of the machine. He unfriended me on Facebook, I said oh no you don’t, I’m the devil that you know baby I know what you want.”. Risky subject matters, vivid imagery through the lyrics, and Springfield’s delivery, means that every lyric is crystal clear.
Springfield has wrestled with depression most of his life. He has recently spoken about a failed suicide attempt, and how the thoughts are still there, so ‘Suicide Manifesto’ is a bit uneasy on the listener as it’s such a good song! You will find your feet tapping, your head bobbing, and maybe even your hands clapping, it’s the harmonica that does it.. so hard to resist. I can’t think of another song about suicide set to such a rocking beat, but that is the great juxtaposition about ‘The Snake King’. How can an album with such stark subject matters be… dare I say it… uplifting? It’s the same with ‘God Don’t Care’… infectious. The music plays a great part in this. For the most part, its high tempo, guitar driven rock, with a healthy smattering of blues-rock. ‘The Devil That You Know’ is a fantastic slice of R’n’B infused rock with a killer harmonica solo. ‘Little Demon’ is huge, classic rock with cinematic string arrangements (Mission Impossible/Bond-esque), the drum sound pivotal in giving the song such a strong vibe, and the dreamy guitar solo mid-song is peachy keen. ‘Judas Tree’ is as traditional blues as you can get without opening the song with the lines “Woke up this morning…”, and as Wayne Campbell would say “these guys wail”. The title track is a bodacious, foot-stomping, anthemic moment, that swells with a beer-in-the-air chorus. Oh, and the slide guitar is totally spot on. It also hangs around on ‘The Voodoo House’, which manages to be both nostalgic and current. ‘Santa Is An Anagram’ is the best song that Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard never wrote. Pure piano-filled boogie. Sidenote… Chas & Dave at Ramblin’ Man Fair this year! Not many people would end an album with a ten-minute statement song like ‘Orpheus In The Underworld’, but Springfield has already chucked the rule book out the window, so why not, eh?
Totally not the album that I expected, but highly enjoyable, and full marks to Rick Springfield for not playing it safe and going down the 80’s re-hash route. In doing so, chances are that he may alienate half of his fan base. He’s not the messiah… he’s a very naughty boy. Now go away!
Available now on Frontiers Music
Review: Brian Cohen