by Al Kaufman
There’s nothing like a presidential election to get the juices flowing in the arts world. It has single-handedly revitalized Saturday Night Live, it has brought Oliver Stone out of his conspiracy lab to create the presidential bio, W, and now, it has inspired troubadour Todd Snider to release the 8-song EP, Peace Queer.
Peace Queer won’t win Snider any new fans. His fans already know and love him for the peace-loving, pot-smoking, fornicating hippie that he is. He has covered his political beliefs in the past, on songs such as "Conservative, Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males" and "You Got Away With It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers)." He’s for peace. He’s for the love. He’s for the little guy. The thing is, Snider fans are used to him posting his views with a good amount of humor and artistry. He throws in a song or two about drinking, fornicating, or guys who went missing and were never found. That stuff doesn’t exist on Peace Queer.
Snider does not place the blame for all our problems on the President. He simply points them out through allegory, and sometimes rather heavy-handedly. "Fightin’ for peace? That’s like screamin’ for quiet," he sings on the opening cut "Mission Accomplished (Because You Gotta Have Faith)." Snider has obviously never spent a lot of time around kids. Screaming for quiet works. But the guitar line that apes the opening of George Michael’s "Faith" is a nice touch.
"Is This Thing Working" is a poem that is put to a basic beat on the last cut, "Is This Thing On." The allegory here is a bully beats up a kid. The kid eventually tells him he’s going to have to beat him up every day, until eventually the bully starts fearing the kid and the bully’s friends start rooting for the other kid. Gee, I don’t know, could this apply to any, say, countries that we know?
"Stuck In the Corner (Prelude to a Heart Attack)" and "Dividing the Estate (A Heart Attack)" tell a story in two parts of a guy who loves the economy when everyone is "making so much money we can hardly breathe." In part two, after he stops breathing, there is nobody to go to his funeral. Again, a nice story, a nice moral, and even a good beat. But for Snider, who is so clever a lyricist that he often gets compared to Dylan in his prime years, the whole thing just seems a bit too obvious.
While Snider’s dirge-like cover of John Fogerty’s "Fortunate Son" has been getting most of the press, the finest cut on the CD is "The Ballad of Cape Henry," which allows Patty Griffin to release her inner blues mama on the harmony vocals. Co-written by Snider with his good friend, Will Kimbrough, it is the most musical of all the songs on the EP.
True hippie that he is, in addition to its store release, Snider is making Peace Queer available on his website free of charge until Halloween. If you’re a Todd Snider fan, it’s worth a few listens, and at 25-minutes, it doesn’t take long to listen to the whole thing. If you’re not familiar with Snider, check out East Nashville Skyline or his wonderfully rambling live CD, Near Truths and Hotel Rooms. They better demonstrate just how good Todd Snider can be.