Alt-country is a loaded tag, especially the second half of the term. Most people who think that country music starts with Dolly Parton and ends with Garth Brookes will have already stopped reading at this point anyway. Good, now I can get on with talking to the target audience and although The Last Days of Rock and Roll might have alt-country as it’s jumping off point, this is an album that sees the band really expand on their trademark sound.
Maybe it was the re-shuffling of the line up, maybe it is just that they have so much time served that they feel free to indulge their other influences, maybe they are just older and wiser, whatever the reason, it is safe to say that the band are writing some of the best songs of their career. The core sound is still very much definitive Snakes but it is the new sources of inspiration that really flavour the album.
The title track acts as a centre-piece and it carries all the pomp and majesty of the best 70’s Bowie or Mott and either side of it they really give themselves some elbow room, the Springsteen-esque imagery of Guardian Angel, the country-rock of The Band Played On, some of Simon and Richards past appears via the Stones channelling Here We Go Again and there is even time to play the more sentimental card on the compelling and heart-tugging Three Little Wishes. For the first time they have even included a cover, a fairly faithful rendition of Gene Clark’s version of The French Girl.
The familiar themes are in play, hearts break, glory days are reminisced upon, loved ones are missed, angels look down and despair and people love, lose and leave. But as always the stories are generally loaded with just the right amount of hope and optimism, it’s reflective and wistful but philosophical, just like real life.
So I’ll let other review sites pigeonhole this under alt-country, for my money it just needs to go into the “album of the year nominations” section and leave it at that.