Rick McLean: Here’s Another Fine Mess
by Paul Whyte
It’s a little too easy to throw around the term “singer-songwriter” because it covers so much. Most might think of some subdued folk played solo on an acoustic guitar. Certainly nothing in your face or too heavy. You know, just good old “singer-songwriter” music? Well, Rick McLean is certainly a singer-songwriter of sorts, but his new album titled “Here’s Another Fine Mess” pushes some boundaries from what some might usually expect from a “folk” artist.
First off, this album is more country and punk than anything else. There is folk-like music going on here, but McLean really makes stuffing him into a particular genre difficult. Maybe it’d be better to say that this is music that doesn’t take itself too seriously other than the times for when it does. For example, the album art is done by McLean and its an illustrated dog wearing a ball cap.
However, there are some pretty deep lyrics in the album that make social statements on top of pretty descriptive story telling. If anything this album is driven more by satire than by trying to fit into anything specific. The album starts out driving and a little heavy with the track “Dog Kennel Blues.” It’s a rough around the edges thrashy blues tune that is about why his car smells like a dog kennel. This song gives way into the country-punk song “Out Yer Snout.” The song deals with police harassment from busking, to protesting, to sleeping outside while homeless. “Stop and frisk pedestrians for nothing but their race/Beat a drunken crippled man to put him in his place/Pepper spray an un armed crowd directly to the face/It’s the patriotic way to use a can of mace,” goes the last verse. While the album leans punk, it goes full storytelling country with the “Ballad of Frank Jacob.” The song is excellent as it details the final days of a man to be sentenced to death.
“When they asked if he had thought of any last words/He said ‘save the diplomatic shit and put me in the dirt’/Without further questioning they shut his eyes with lead/Then they bowed their heads in silence as the watched him while he bled.” While there are some pretty lyrically deep tracks with the songs “Storming the Air Castle” and “Gen Y,” which both look at society and living in it, I have to say the track “Apologies to Petula Clark” stands out because it’s based on the hard to forget classic “Downtown” by Clark. However, it is tongue in cheek in how it makes “Downtown” into not such a great place to be. “When life is boring to the point that you’re snoring you can always go Downtown/You want a place where you no longer feel safe well you can always go Downtown.”
The song is bleak and upbeat at the same time, and is at least pretty entertaining. Overall, McLean has come up with a singer-songwriter album that doesn’t really feel like it cares if it’s classified as such. It’s probably safer to call it a punk album in the vein of Dead Milkmen or a band like that. The moments of humor and seriousness in the album move it along so it’s for sure not boring for a “folk” album. Rick McLean will be celebrating this albums release on Saturday, September 9 at Blush on 1st Ave W. The True Malarkey and Amy will also be playing.