Green on Red

Gas Food Lodging

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Much like their pals the Dream Syndicate, Green on Red used up nearly all their psychedelic influences early on, and 1985's Gas Food Lodging found Dan Stuart and company veering into country-inflected roots rock that dovetailed nicely with the populist themes Stuart had begun to explore in his lyrics. Opening with "That's What Dreams," a tough but moving first-person tale of a working man struggling to hold on to his dignity, Gas Food Lodging takes a long look at the sometimes-fractured state of the American psyche during the Reagan years, as seen through the eyes of a low-budget rock band out on the road. Of course, Dan Stuart's America is populated by drunks, losers, drifters, and psychopaths, but there's a genuine measure of compassion in his portrayal of this collection of lost souls, and this lineup of the band -- with Chuck Prophet IV on guitar and Chris Cacavas on organ -- created evocative music that added depth and detail to Stuart's grubby vision. Gas Food Lodging set a template for the music Green on Red would make in the future, but they rarely hit their targets as squarely as they did here; there's an emotional weight and a ring of truth to this material that missing from much of the band's later work, and while closing with "We Shall Overcome" might seem like an especially obvious gesture, through sheer bloodshot sincerity this band makes it work -- and makes it genuinely moving. Gas Food Lodging is too loose and deliberately ramshackle to support the title of masterpiece, but calling it Green on Red's best album will do nicely.

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