It's hard not to think when listening to Songs for a Dying Planet that Joe Walsh has a profound musical statement that he has yet to make. After quite some time away from his solo recording gig, it figures that Walsh would have some interesting things to say, and a few guitar riffs to unleash. This 1999 Sony release fulfills those expectations to a degree, but the songwriter's weakened comedic instincts and extreme sincerity make Songs for a Dying Planet a difficult recommendation. Things start off fierce and promising as two solid rockers ("Shut Up," "Fairbanks Alaska") lead into one of Walsh's best songs in many years, the slow scorcher "Coyote Love." The sublime ballad "I Know" follows, and at this point Walsh seems to be in a creative zone the likes of which he had not occupied since the early '80s. The momentum shudders as the listless "Certain Situations" leads into the bad political lampoon job "Vote for Me." Humor in rock is a delicate endeavor, and one that Walsh clearly mastered on classics like "Life's Been Good," but within that almost campy structure existed a palpable edge or even danger. The self-parody related more than a little first-hand experience and an undefined tragic subtext that resonated loudly in Walsh's falsetto and his audience as they assessed their personal reality within the coming post-rock world. No such subtlety or importance exists on Songs For a Dying Planet (comedic or otherwise.) Everything is stated rather plainly, as in the sentimental "The Friend Song" where listeners are led directly to the obvious personal sentiments. In earlier work, Walsh covered the descriptions and listeners came to their own meaningful or humorous conclusions naturally, on this record (and much of the musician's work after the mid-'80s) he decides things for himself, and the listener is forced into a passive response, no longer engaged.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries