Graham Parker and the Rumour have a new release, Three Chords Good, and it’s their first album in thirty-one years! That’s a real hiatus, a working lifetime for many people. So how do they do with an album of new material, a band that hasn’t been together in over thirty years? From the first chord of “Snake Oil Capital of the World” there is no question that this is Graham Parker and the Rumour at their best. Those fans who unwrapped Squeezing Out Sparks thirty-four years ago may relive something new and familiar if they stumble across this new classic.
This isn’t an album that relives the past or rehashes old material; it’s fresh—not a bad accomplishment after so many years. And if it were put out thirty-one years ago it would have been nonsensical to all of us. Three Chords Good is about now.
Arlington Is Very Busy
“Arlington’s Busy” is one of the most carefully-worded, poignant dirges to the prolonged mess that the US finds itself in—fallout from 9-11—ever written, equal to other recent political works by such artists as Dylan and Cooder, among others. This tune would be impossible at the height of the Rumour’s popularity; it’s about the new reality. It isn’t the only piece peculiar to now, disjoining that familiar sound from long ago with current realities.
Easily the best song on the album is “Three Chords Good,” with that big whammy bar sound and overall pop feel. It’s not about tripe though. It seems to be deep enough, with real lyrics, but it doesn’t matter because it sounds amazing and the string bending is brilliant. "The Moon Was Low" could be from any of their albums, a solid pop tune. Many of these other tunes, the non-political ones, could probably be from 1979 and still work well today as those older albums do. We just need a reminder in the form of a new album, a reminder to get out the vinyl, so to speak.
Songwriting in Our Era
The title tune is phenomenal. “Coathangers” and “Last Bookstore in Town” are a melding of lyrics and music, about now, though not like “Arlington Is Busy,” relevant but less controversial. There are lyrics; lyrics that you have to listen to and follow and figure out. It’s not all politics, but it’s good. For those of us who read books, the paper ones, the experience recounted in “Last Bookstore in Town” is familiar—and even peculiar—to those of us who are old enough to have heard the Rumour's early albums when they were released in the 70s.
Times have changed but the Rumour is still worth listening to.
Check out our review of Howlin' Wind.