Saturday, 27 October 2018

Ian Hunter - Rant (2001)


Released April 2001

Recorded in New York City


1. Still Love Rock 'n' Roll
2. Wash Us Away
3. Death Of A Nation
4. Morons
5. Purgatory
6. American Spy
7. Dead Man Walking (Eastenders)
8. Good Samaritan
9. Soap and Water
10. Rip Off
11. Knees Of My Heart
12. No-One

"England's such a ripoff" Ian Hunter's by now endearing croaky voice growls out, from his tax exile house in the USA. Forgive my cynicism. I can understand his dissatisfaction, but not from someone who hasn't lived there for ages. I agree with his sentiments on the song, though, from my position and it certainly rocks with a fire old Ian hasn't lit under himself for years. Yes, "Ripoff" is undoubtedly a corker of a track. This is also Hunter's most overtly political album, he is indeed having a "rant", although, as often has been the case with Ian Hunter (and I have enjoyed his music since 1972) I am never quite sure where he is coming from politically. He has, for me, always been a bit of a mix of contradictions. His love/hate relationships with both the USA and the UK, for a start. Either way, nevertheless, the albums rocks, big time. His best since 1979, by far.

The brooding, menacingly pounding beat of "Good Samaritan" is another highly convincing number on this vibrant album. Hunter's voice rides confidently over the solid backing. "Purgatory" has an infectious, funky-ish guitar opening of a track that sounds like The Rolling Stones' late eighties/early nineties material. "American Spy" is full of Tom Petty-style riffs and a classic industrial-strength Hunter vocal. "Dead Man Walkin'" has a "Streets Of Philadelphia"-style drum beat and one of those great stately Hunter piano backings and a sad yearning vocal. "All the world's a stage, it's just that I ain't on it anymore...." sings Hunter, with breathtaking honesty. "What am I supposed to do now...sink to the bottom of obscurity..." he asks, on what is a very moving song. It is almost as if Hunter has given up on himself at this point.

Thankfully, "Wash Us Away" sees him lifted up again, although in a very nostalgic mode, thinking back to his childhood in the 1940s. As with many of Hunter's songs, though, as much as the song sounds inspiring, I am always left by wondering exactly what he was on about. It sounds meaningful so therefore it must be. Joe Strummer's solo material has the same effect on me. "Morons" is a bit of a low point on the album, despite its Mott The Hoople-esque, promising piano introduction and convincing first verse, the chorus is pretty awful. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, it has a Dickensian vigour about it in places. Any doubts I had about "Morons" are blown away by the wonderful "Knees Of My Heart", a pulsating classic Hunter rocker in praise of his long-suffering wife Trudi, still with him after so many years. "I bought you a house with a burglar alarm system.." is a great, typically wry Hunter line.

"No One" is an archetypal Hunter mid-pace rock ballad, full of those characteristic rises and falls and dramatic big chorus. When the guitar solo comes in you almost feel it is Hunter's old mate Mick Ronson. "Still Love Rock And Roll" does what you would imagine it would - it blows away all the cobwebs and rocks with a huge thump. He even ends with a "Golden Age Of Rock And Roll" "that's all""Death Of A Nation" perfectly exemplifies the dichotomy I find in Hunter's lyrics. Exactly what is he bemoaning as he imagines talking with The Queen, Prince Charles and Winston Churchill? He is speaking of a nation dying - what, in 2000, under a Labour government? Things had been much worse, Ian. Despite my misgivings over the lyrics, the song has one hell of an atmosphere to it. It is one of my favourites of his. Actually the song is far more relevant in 2018. "Look what they've done, it's the death of a nation...". Indeed.

"Soap 'n' Water" is a slow burning number with Ian ranting at someone or other about something or other. Not quite sure who or what, but it sounds good in that majestic Hunter fashion, as the whole album has.


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