Warren Zevon

My Ride's Here

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Warren Zevon is famous for black-hearted comedy tunes like "Werewolves of London" and "Excitable Boy," but his best work is a good bit deeper and more penetrating, and 2000's Life'll Kill Ya was an impressive return to form, a song cycle about aging and death that was played less for easy laughs than for the bitter humor derived from the knowledge that no one, the artist included, will get out of this world alive. Unfortunately, Zevon's follow-up, 2002's My Ride's Here, for the most part recalls second-tier Zevon albums like Mr. Bad Example or Mutineer; the jokes tend to be a bit obvious, the more introspective moments don't connect the way one might hope; and the music often lacks the physical or emotional strength to bring these songs across. (It doesn't help that Zevon sounds a bit bored or distracted on much of this set.) My Ride's Here also finds Zevon collaborating with a number of writers from outside the world of music (not the first time he's done this; novelist Tom McGuane co-wrote "The Overdraft" on Envoy), but the results are not especially encouraging. Novelist Carl Hiaasen co-wrote "Basket Case," an ode to an insane girlfriend that's one of the least effective tunes on the album, and while gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson struggles to make "You're a Whole Different Person When You're Scared" sound ominous, the results fall flat. Sportswriter Mitch Albom, of all people, turns in the best collaboration on the album; if there isn't much depth or subtlety to "Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)," at least the jokes are funny and the narrative holds together (and that's David Letterman providing the voice of the obnoxious fan). The sardonic "Genius" and "Sacrificial Lambs," and the title cut -- a meditation on mortality that would have fit in on Life'll Kill Ya -- are strong enough to remind listeners of just how talented Zevon still is, but for the most part My Ride's Here is a misfire from an artist capable of much better work.

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