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James Iha – Let It Come Down

August 3, 2006

I said I’d do it, right?

I typically hate anything even vaguely reminiscent of country music. Nothing annoys me more than sitting down in a movie theater all comfortable with my nachos and hearing Toby Keithe or some stupid hillbilly fuck talking about what he would do if he only had three days to live. Because I can tell just from hearing that music that the artist doesn’t care enough about me as a listener to actually produce quality music. But then again, these people lurk in all genres. Which explains why James Blunt is the biggest <female genitalia> on the planet. See? I’m getting angry just thinking about these people. I shouldn’t be angry in a movie theater, unless the movie itself dictates so. I just wanna eat my nachos and enjoy myself.

So why is it that James Iha’s solo album doesn’t annoy me at all when it could easily be considered some kind of country? Well, it’s not contemporary country like what I hear a lot in the theater. And it’s not flat out hick country either, the kind of stuff you hear on Prairie Home Companion (god, please supress these people somehow). So I fail to see how it is really country. Perhaps it is folk of some kind, because folk also bears some resembelance to country, but without the binds that attatch music to the sleazy open plain kind of music. Bob Dylan is folk, and Bob Dylan is not sleazy, mostly because he is a poet and he knows how to write hooks. Let It Come Down has hooks too, and it’s not sleazy, and it’s soft california pop/rock. So I’ll just give in and call this pop/folk.

For the record, James Iha was the guitarist of alternative kings (and queens) the Smashing Pumpkins. He wasn’t that big in the band, mostly because no one except Billy Corgan was. Which is probably why he ended up being a George Harrison type figure, only having contributed a few fantastic songs the the bands work (most of which were b-sides), and co-writing a lot of stuff too. So it’s obvious why the man would want to be able to make a solo album. His songwriting was being pushed back, and there was a lot of stuff he had to say in 1997, when this album was made. And this album has a lot of ideas that could not be covered through scattered Pumpkins appearances.

The main theme of the album is love, but it is clearly discussed and presented in different ways than other people do so throughout the record. Almost like a Beatles album. It’s not sappy, because this guy knows how to write music that he can fit lyrics around, which is a feat that I really respect. And a lot of the songs are very simple in melody as well as lyrics. See The Sun is one such tune with a very simple chord progression and a theme of love that I guarentee the listener has heard before. And yet, it’s… Adorable. And that word is coming from a straight male. I’m not going to pretend, because that’s what it is.

The question is, do I really want adorable when it comes to music? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Here, it’s pretty good, and I honestly have no idea why. Yeah, not all of the album is like this, but this is country. It’s ****ing country, and I like it. The first time I heard this, I literally felt like hitting my head over something. That line, “you know theres no denying” is almost tantalizing, but then the awesome heart warming chorus “see the sun, and what you’re given” is just irresistable. People, bear with me here, because this is about as vulnerable as you will ever see me. It’s desperation. I SHOULD NOT LIKE THIS SONG.

But I do.

But not everything on the album could be considered some form of country. There was only one single off of the album, and it was the first track, Be Strong Now. It’s a very good tune, and it has a toe tapping drive to it, and it almost seems like this shouldn’t be the first song so much as the last because the harmonization is done well enough to make it seem conclusive. Theres a cello in the background too if I’m not mistaken, and it’s very subtle, but it adds to the whole experience. And the lyrics and shy disposition of the vocalist really make it seem like the words are important. I’m not sure that this got much radio play, but it’s totally top 40 material. As are two other equally strong songs, Jealousy and Beauty. Jealousy is just flat out infectious pop, and Mr. Iha even tries to promote the virus with his “doo-doo-doo”s later on. Beauty is also very good, and I’m pretty sure the cello is utilized again.

The album has some quieter numbers too. A personal favorite of mine is Winter, which should probably be played at the said time. It’s a relaxing little musing of a song, and it is more atmosphere music than anything, because the hook isn’t so apparent even though the chords are delightful. Country Girl is another song I feel bad about loving, because it’s just so… Goddam catchy and innocent. It even has “country” in the title. It’s hard to work that into a title and still make the song good in my eyes. It’s more country once again. I’m starting to feel the pain by that part of the album, because it’s right after See The Sun.

The entire mood of the album probably should remind the listener of some open pasture or something in frickin Kentucky, but fortunately it does not. Because Iha does not dwell on trivial matters like other country artists do, and theres a way of reason and poetry to his lyrics. The ****ing Dixie Chicks are going to tell you exactly what they want to say, and that’s annoying to me. If given the chance, they will talk about what they ate for breakfast, or how to milk a cow or something, and if you want them to get deeper, they will tell you exactly how they love taking roads less travelled by and how men constantly break their hearts and eat all the food in their refridgerator. Thankfully enough, the theme of love is upheld throughout this entire album, and it is presented in different enough ways to keep interesting. And this doesn’t really scream hillbilly-nation either. It’s more of an album for suburbia, evidence for which can be found in the Be Strong Now Music video. If this was an album exclusively for people with cowboy hats, a little less (or more, depending on how you look at it) would have been said during this music.

The album isn’t even close to perfect. Three songs are utterly bad. Sound of Love is too sappy even for the most vulnerable part of my mind, Silver String has almost no direction at all (and almost wanders into the contemporary country boundaries a little), and No Ones Gonna Hurt You is way too blunt. But the better parts of this album are enough to make it one of my personal favorites, even if it isn’t really that standout brilliant or revolutionary or anything. A few weeks ago I picked up Billy Corgans solo album. Yes, it’s okay, but it doesn’t have sticking power like this does, and this isn’t even in a genre I like all the time. That shows really good persuasive songwriting power. My question is, why hasn’t this been followed up yet? If it turns out that James Iha is not in the reformed Pumpkins that I have been hearing about so much, I can only hope that another solo album is possible.

Oh yeah, and on a completely different note, I acquired the last three EPs of The Aeroplane flies high. My favorite EP is the 1979 EP, which actually features two James Iha numbers. The better one is The Boy, which is just great pop and might be the best song on the entire box set, probably one of the best songs the Pumpkins have ever done. Try to get that track if you can.

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One comment

  1. I used to never listen to country music, but it’s changed. A lot of it is more mainstream and I like that. Plus the women are hot and that makes everything better!



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