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As Joe Strummer once told us, anger can be power, but what Joe didn’t mention is that it tends to burn hot and fast. Once it’s gone, what’s left? At what point do you run out of productive rage and find yourself weighed down by the ashes of hopelessness and defeat? When the Drive-By Truckers wrote and recorded 2016’s American Band, the United States was a nation ankle-deep in the rising waters of racism and division. 2020’s The Unraveling is the companion piece to American Band, an update where tragically little has gotten better four years on, and our national malaise is greater than ever.
This set of songs is rooted in frustration with a broken culture, where children are put in fenced off compounds, mass shootings come and go with no progress towards a solution, the rich get disproportionately richer, folks turn to opiates to block out the pain and the noise, misogyny and race hatred still glaringly condoned and no happy ending is visible on the horizon. On The Unraveling, the Truckers https://www.drivebytruckers.com stare deep into America’s soul and report what they’ve seen, with genuine compassion but no illusions. Simply put, this is the darkest and least fun album the DBT’s have made to date, one that makes American Band look light-hearted in contrast, and more than ever before, they struggle with the weight of questions that aren’t just important, they’re necessary, but with no simple answers offered by themselves or anyone else. Musically, The Unraveling is simply superb delivering some of the bands most potent yet nuanced performances.
Primary songwriters/vocalists/guitarists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have always been adamant addressing issues they feel fervent about head on. But with song titles such as “Babies in Cages,” Armageddon’s Back in Town,” and the searing “Thoughts and Prayers,” ( “When my children’s eyes look at me and they ask me to explain / It hurts me that I have to look away / The powers that be are in for shame and comeuppance / When Generation Lockdown has their day… so stick it up your ass with your useless thoughts and prayers.” ) the fury and passion about the current socio-political environment is ramped up to code red levels.
Track 04 / Thoughts And Prayers – 5:23
Thankfully, they don’t forsake resilient melodies and sturdy playing to get their points across. The opening ballad “Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun” eases the listener into an album that shifts moods to a tornado of two and sometimes three guitars rocking out in established DBT’s fashion.
Track 06 / Heroin Again – 3:57
Then there is the knotted yet restrained swamp rocking of “Heroin Again” wraps cautionary lyrics (“I thought you knew better than that” Hood repeats throughout the song) around a swirling, taut melody bolstered by thick washes of organ and Tom Petty-styled dueling guitars that explode with an electrifying closing slide solo.
The album ends with the eight-minute-plus “Awaiting Resurrection,” which, with its unrelenting bleakness and all the air between Morgan’s minimalist drums and Hood and Cooley’s cobweb-like guitars, is the closest the band has ever come to post-rock. “I hold my family close/Trying to find the balance/Between the bad shit going down/And the beauty that this life can keep injecting,” Hood intones in a ghostly growl, returning once again to the same theme of many of the preceding songs. Hood and Cooley dwell more on the bad shit than the beauty throughout The Unraveling. It’s perhaps their most confrontational, challenging effort to date, an intricate work that’s more a reflection of than an antidote to the darkness.
Track 009 / Awaiting Resurrection – 8:39
The Unraveling Track List:
|1||Rosemary With A Bible And A Gun||3:29|
|2||Armageddon’s Back In Town||3:48|
|3||Slow Ride Argument||3:20|
|4||Thoughts And Prayers||5:22|
|5||21st Century USA||4:14|
|7||Babies In Cages||5:33|