Graham Parker’s long-awaited reunion with The Rumour isn’t the equivalent of an aging actor dying his hair and spackling his crow’s feet away.
“Three Chords Good,” Parker’s first album with the Rumour in 31 years, finds the underrated singer/songwriter using the passage of time to his benefit while cheering some liberal talking points. No, his gravelly voice hasn’t been sandpapered smooth, and the album’s chances at rocketing up the charts remains somewhere south of slim and none (the latter point will be hammered home with Parker’s wry cameo in the upcoming comedy “This is 40”).
The album finds Parker in a mostly wistful mood, joining his graying ex-mates (Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont on guitars, Steve Goulding on drums, Andrew Bodnar on bass and Bob Andrews on keyboards) in ruminations on cultural changes, emotional love and the occasional swipe at the industrial military complex.
“Snake Oil Capital of the World” kicks off the 12 tracks on a less than auspicious note. Parker’s prose can be a thing of beauty, but the chorus here feels forced, like an op-ed dashed off under deadline pressure.
“Long Emotional Ride” sets the album’s compass true North, letting the singer/songwriter open up in ways that feel heartfelt and raw.
“Lately I’ve been feeling things that I never felt before, maybe I’m just getting old or something, but something broke down my resistance and opened the door,” he sings ahead of a swirling organ riff.
Both “Stop Cryin’ About the Rain” and “She Rock Me” are vintage Parker, buoyed by crack lyrics and melodies that sneak up on you. The same holds true for the title track, Parker’s voice daring to hit inelegant notes along the way.
Parker indulges his anti-war side with “Arlington’s Busy,” a bristling political track that doubles as the disk’s musical highlight. With echoes of “Short of Memories” from “Burning Questions,” Parker and co. decry lying military officials, name drop “Rumsfeld” and “McChrystal” and generally bemoan fighting overseas for our “freedom.”
“And Arlington’s busy and business is brisk, not that you’d notice cuz ignorance is bliss,” he thunders.
“Coathangers” manages to rock harder than the previous tracks while blasting away at the anti-abortion crowd, continuing the album’s left-of-center tack.
“Three Chords Good” lacks the sonic fury of Parker’s first four Rumour releases. You won’t hear any anthem rockers or songs pushing him out of his current state of mind. He’s older now, and plenty wiser, too, something reflected in an album worthy of the confetti and Champagne such reunions demand.