Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Eric Church "The Outsiders" Single Review

     Eric Church has been doing a good job of staying creative and fresh in a mind-numbingly unoriginal mainstream country format.  He has seamlessly blended hard rock and classic country to create a unique sound that was fully realized with his stellar album Chief.  Eric has taken some time off to try to follow up that great album, and "The Outsiders" is our first taste of the new material.

     The result is a pretty confusing song with some bright moments, but leaves this reviewer wanting more.  First of all, this song is not country.  It's progressive rock.  Chief was a boundary pusher, but it kept one foot in the country puddle and one in the rock puddle.  This song is a full on jump into rock, but its not as big of a splash as he wanted.  There is nothing wrong with rocking up your country music, but this just takes it a step too far in my book.  Shooter Jennings has released songs like this, but he markets them as rock.  I think Eric is trying too hard to be creative and different.  He doesn't want to be another guy with another truck song, so he goes the opposite way.  That's commendable, it really is, but I think he goes too far in the other direction.

     The opening of the song is nice though.  It has a low guitar rhythm that is sounds like a modern spin on that 'ol Waylon backbeat.  Eric does a light speaking/borderline rap to open.  I actually like the slow build and held-back way he delivers the lines.  Then, out of nowhere, a stack of screaming amps with guitars, drums, and bass throws up all over the place and it doesn't really do anything but get louder and weirder from that moment.  This would be a really cool live song, but it doesn't fit on country radio, and it isn't a good preview of a new album.  It really just has no direction.  It wants to be country, it wants to be rock, it wants to be metal, it wants to be progressive... with lyrics like "that's how we roll" it even wants some of that pop/hiphop cred.  When you try to blend that much, you just get a mess.

      The lyrics are borderline generic, but ok.  I like the message of being an outsider to the suits and big shots on Music Row, but sometimes Eric tells us too much and it comes across as a marketing gimmick and not as sincere.  That being said, he certainly lives up to his claims and does things his way.  You just don't have to tell us all the time, dude. Even though the lyrics are passable, there really isn't much as far as a melody or singing along potential to this song.  Lots of yelling and loud noises.  Stripped down to acoustic, this song would be terribly boring.  It doesn't have that capturing sound that draws you in.  It's good for banging your head and driving very fast to, but little more than that.  Maybe that's all Eric intended.  If so, good job, but he is capable of so much more.

     I'm still excited to hear the rest of the album, which is rumored to be also called The Outsiders.  Eric is the top male in the mainstream world right now, and has the ability to make some of the best modern country you will hear.  Hopefully this is Eric just making a lot of noise to make sure people are still paying attention, and setting a vibe of unpredictability for the new album.  I'm holding out hope and optimism for a great finished product, but this early taste of the new material is just too big of a mess for me. Stay golden, Ponyboy.

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