Idol Chatter

TBoneBurnettpicforic.jpgT-Bone Burnett is still probably known more for being the mastermind producer for hugely successful soundtracks such as “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and “Walk The Line,” but he also has a cult following as a solo recording artist. He released “The True False Identity” in 2006 to rave reviews and just released the eerily dark—and by dark I mean take your Prozac before listening to it—examination of society in “The Tooth of Crime.”

“The Tooth of Crime” is actually a project years in the making, as the songs are loosely inspired by the Sam Shepard play of the same name about a celebrity in a dystopic culture where celebrity is a disposable and dangerous commodity. Burnett had worked on a musical adaptation of the project and is only now releasing his version of the songs. The prophetic nature of Burnett’s music is a smart fit for such an eclectic project, but perhaps only the bravest and most die-hard fans will want to venture into the territory Burnett covers in “Tooth.”
All of the songs have a jarring, bluesy feel with impeccable arrangements, and his talented ex-wife, Sam Phillips (she has her own project coming out very soon), is featured on several of the tracks. But it is the lyrics that reach out through the rich musical tapestry and paint haunting images that are disturbing and relentless in their bleakness. With song titles like “Kill Zone,” “The Rat Age,” and “Dope Island,” this really shouldn’t come as a shock, and yet shock Burnett does.
Burnett isn’t trying to offer hope of deliverance in this particular musical portrait. He seems intent on forcing the questions that have plagued postmodern culture— questions of ethics, identity, and purpose—for decades now, daring us to not look away this time. So as cold and ruthless as “Tooth” is at times, I was still mesmerized by many of the songs and have to recommend it to those who are not faint of heart, but are fearless in spirit.

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