Album Review: Walter Egan’s Myth America

Album Review

Walter Egan: Myth America

(2014)

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I’ve been reading for years that the concept album is dead, and yet the success of Green Day’s modern classic American Idiot proved that theory to be wildly inaccurate. Walter Egan’s latest effort, Myth America, does, as well. While I may be reading too much into the songs and tying them together so that they fit under the umbrella of a common theme, they come across that way (perhaps only in my mind).  I’ve recently been re-reading Jack Kerouac’s generation-shaping novel On The Road, and I was struck by how well Egan’s current album could serve as a soundtrack for that literary journey.  Kerouac and Egan both expose the seedy underbelly, yet also the beauty, of America, life, and the society we live in.  Both works are “warts and all” looks at existence, and both will leave you wanting more.

Myth America begins with a barn burning “Faith Comes Crashin’ Down,” a fast-paced condemnation of those who worship false idols, and given the album name, this could really be anyone in the Land of the Free, either the religious who sin in the name of an all-powerful deity, or those who worship at the altar of materialism, or even those who believe that they are the sun and the rest of the world revolves around them.

After such a high octane start to the album, Egan moves into a reflective song about love, “Cool Crazy,” and then into a song full of discord, “What Lurks Inside A Heart,” be it from the guitar chords or the lyrics:

Life, the joy and strife
So brief
But underneath the skin
There deep within
There dwells
Demons from hell

Egan does not let up, though, and next up is “Dyin’ For Love;” the dark side of young love is put under the microscope and opened up for all to see.

As the first few songs end, I am struck by how much of a vocal chameleon Egan is. Typically as a singer ages, their voice shows the wear and tear of long-term singing and, well, living. This isn’t so on this album, and having seen Egan perform in New York City recently, I can say that the voice on the album isn’t the result of studio trickery.  The other thought that goes through my mind is that Egan is also a wordsmith with a particular gift for wordplay, as is evidenced by this lyric from “Faith Comes Crashin’ Down”: “Young souls controlled, made prey as they pray/So evil, believers all led astray.” Some writers rely on turns of phrase to carry a song’s lyrics, but often the song winds up drowning in an ocean of puns.  Egan tempers his humor with philosophical concepts, his funny quips with intellectual ideas.  The balance fits and the songs (and listeners) are the winners because of Egan’s lyrical skills.

Not even halfway through the album, I hear what I instantly know will be one of the standout tracks: “Her Smile.”  It’s not a realization born out of knowing the album is going to drop off in quality from here on out, as that wasn’t the case. I knew once the first verse had gone by that this was the song that would resonate with me for whatever mystical or transcendent reasons we are drawn to some songs but not others. “Her Smile” was the track that reminded me I was listening to the guy who wrote “Magnet And Steel,” and not because this new song is a rehashing of the classic hit.  Both songs have a particular quality that makes some people stars and others panhandlers, and it’s that indescribable quality that, for lack of a better word, we label “charisma.”  In short, if someone wrote this song for you, you would know that you had indeed found true love.

After the beauty of “Her Smile,” Egan starts into “Nothing Can Save Us Now” which, on the surface, seems like an odd choice after leading us down the mellow and beautiful path of the previous song. However, given the Myth America title of the album, you shouldn’t expect a safe and sappy collection of songs. The album is wonderfully frenetic at times, introspective at others, much like life can be. Given that Myth America was recorded over a 3-year period, the up and down feelings expressed on the album make sense.

The album then moves from genre to genre, from the island beat of “Lililovin’” (an interesting love song about sex more than love, actually), to the blazing guitar on “Stop Bein’ You.” The latter is loaded with finger-pointing lyrics that should make you glad to not be the person being sung about: “You are an effect/Lookin’ for a cause/ Hoping for respect/Or maybe just applause.” “Time The Master” and “Like A Nail When It’s Bent” seem to be companion songs, with the first being my other standout track on the album. It’s a bit of a melancholy song and, as the title suggests, is about watching the time fly by as you are “running in circles.” “Like A Nail When It’s Bent” is more angry while “Time The Master” is more melodious and joyfully regretful, if that makes sense. “Like A Nail” releases the frustration of wondering what life is about, what the point of existence is, and given that Egan is not 25 anymore, his word on the topic holds more weight.  However, the song ends with hope that maybe our time on earth doesn’t involve us spinning our wheels: “Maybe I’m wrong, maybe life’s like a song/Though the record’s been played/The melody stayed.”

The last three tracks on the album are as diverse as the first ten. “Can’t Cry No More” begins with a lament about all of the time spent mourning an event that affected the narrator in a dramatic way. However, he’s ready to move on because he’s done his time grieving. The ending is happier, in sharp contrast to the first three quarters of the song, and features a Ray Manzarek-esque organ sound. You can tell things are getting better, that the journey to find the light again is coming to an end.  “Gone Away” is a fun ditty, sounding like it’s a long-lost relative of the music of the Summer of Love, or at least the late 1960’s.  Lastly, the album closes with “Yeah,” a song that screams out to be played on a warm summer day while you’re rolling your windows down and cranking up the volume on your car stereo.  Sunglasses are required, of course.

It seems to be easy to dismiss any album by a musician who is older than 40, especially by someone labeled a “one hit wonder,” and most music store shoppers seem to do just this, as the formula appears to be that your album sales decrease as your years on this planet increase (barring a few exceptions who truly are exceptions to the rule).  However, I would encourage anyone who doubts whether Myth America is worth the money it costs to buy a hard copy (or dare I say download it) to get your ass over to www.walteregan.com, and pick up a copy today. I’m on my fifth listen of the album and I love it more and more with each spin.

You can buy a copy on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Myth-America-Walter-Egan/dp/B00GTSVNX0/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1391335069&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=myth+america+walter+egan

 

And lastly you can keep in touch with Walter Egan news and events by joining his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/eganwalter?sk=wall

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~ by Jennifer Dodge on March 23, 2014.

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