Review: Todd Snider’s Belated Endeavor

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Todd Snider
Crank It, We’re Doomed
Aimless Records
Three out of Five Stars

Todd Snider has never been one to do things predictably. He’s known for his sharp wit, insurgent attitude, and a mischievous streak that can easily catch his listeners off guard. Yet, his decision to release his new album, the ominously dubbed Crank It, We’re Doomed, some 16 years after it was originally recorded and subsequently shelved, is an odd move even for a confirmed eccentric like Snider.

The fact that he was coming off two highly acclaimed albums at the time—East Nashville Skyline and The Devil You Know—made the initial effort to cancel the release, even after it was fully mastered and ready to be manufactured, all the more baffling. Granted, it’s a decidedly loosely structured album to begin with—mostly a ragtag series of shuffles and struts wholly informed by Snider’s trademark southern swagger. Yet it’s punctuated by a ready reserve of ominous overtones as well, as typified by the otherwise timely and funk-fueled “The War On Terror,” the darkened demeanor applied to “America’s Favorite Pastime” and the scarier scenario described by the confrontation with a cold-blooded murderer, “What Made You Do It.” 

Snider’s edgier intents do make for a detour of sorts from his usual tongue-in-cheek repast, which may be one reason why Snider originally had second thoughts about its release. So too, given the calamity and catastrophe the world is wrapped up in these days, the more troubling themes do seem to find a fit. Snider says in retrospect that he thought the songs were all over the map and that it didn’t seem to gel as a cohesive whole. Nevertheless, it was originally intended to be a double album, but even with the 15 songs it currently contains, it fell short of that goal. 

Five of the songs did find a home on his next two albums (Peace Queer and The Excitement Plan), with three of them acquiring new titles. In addition, new versions of six other songs were released on The Excitement Plan and Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables

Still, those who may be hesitant to repurchase songs they already have needn’t be concerned. The original versions are decidedly different from any revisit that would come later and the fact that Snider was leaning towards a more sassy and seductive style makes this one of Snider’s most distinctive outings overall. It’s assertive to a fault—songs such as “From a Dying Rose,” “Juice” and “Handleman’s Revenge” being obvious examples—but so too there’s an easy amble and ramble shared on tracks like “Doll Face” and “But Serious Folks” that elevates its accessibility. Snider’s nothing if not predictable, and even now, Crank It, We’re Doomed proves that point.

Photo by Stacie Huckeba

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