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The Excitement Plan

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Album Review

Todd Snider's sense of humor sets him apart from most singer/songwriters. It's both his blessing and his curse, since serious industry types seem to think that "funny" songs automatically should be filed in the novelty bin. The humor of classics like "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" is subtle to be sure, but they are poignant and hilarious comments on the human condition. Snider can be scathing, as he was on 2008's Peace Queer, but mostly he delivers his tunes with tongue more or less in cheek. The ironically titled Excitement Plan follows the template of his other albums, with bemused observations of human foolishness that manage to be biting and compassionate at the same time. Things open on a folky note with the acoustic "Slim Chance," one of the few optimistic songs on the album. He plays basic guitar and harmonica and sings: "I found a four-leaf clover in my yard today, it had one leaf missing off it, but that was OK." It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but a telling observation about our ability always to see the silver lining, even in a funnel-shaped cloud. The other tunes on the album aren't as upbeat. "Greencastle Blues" is a country tune with a despondent steel guitar complementing its literary lyric of a man slowly sinking down into the sunset of his life. "Doll Face" is a talking country blues that might be the tale of a child's toy, or a woman treated badly by every man she meets. There's a faint glimmer of hope at the end of the tune, but Snider's ragged delivery doesn't really promise salvation. "Corpus Christi Bay" is another quiet character sketch, just Snider and his guitar, this time of an oil rig worker slowly drinking himself to death. It's unrelentingly grim, relieved only by Snider's dark humor. When the protagonist in the song meets up with his brother after a long separation he tells listeners: "(My brother) finally gave up drinking, then he ordered me a beer." Snider wrote "Don't Tempt Me Baby" with Loretta Lynn, who adds her vocals to the track, a solid cheatin' song with some boogie-woogie piano in the background to give it an old-time country flavor. "Money, Compliments, Publicity" is a complaint about the music business, and like most songs of its ilk, it doesn't work very well. It's hard to take the artistic struggles of anyone still lucky enough to have a record deal in 2009 all that seriously. The album closes with "Good Fortune," a jaunty tune full of sunshine that rides a bluesy Dixieland groove and lets you know that not everything in Snider's universe is as gloomy as most of his songs. ~ j. poet, Rovi


Born: 11 October 1966 in Portland, OR

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter Todd Snider first garnered attention for his timely alt-rock satire "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues," a folk-rock song that struck a chord with younger people fed up with angry alternative rock bands, and at the same time, appealed to aging rockers who grew up with the folk revival of the 1960s. Snider was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in Santa Rosa, Austin, Houston, and Atlanta. After moving to Memphis in the mid-'80s and establishing residency at a local club named...
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The Excitement Plan, Todd Snider
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