It has been 13 years since we have heard a new Blind Melon song on the radio, so naturally I would be enthusiastic – and it was worth the wait. For My Friends is a well-crafted album that has all the familiar standards of Soup, Nico, and Blind Melon – folk and classic rock guitar, a jam rehearsal atmosphere, et cetera. Opening with the title track, Travis Warren reminisces on that which we all sometimes take for granted until we’re wrinkled and gray – the company of old friends.. An acoustic intro makes for those ‘warm and fuzzy moments’ before the band comes together on a drinking song for anyone who likes to chat about old times at the bar or in their backyard.
I should also note the sound of spastic laughter at the end, because it’s just so damn funny.
“With The Right Set Of Eyes” and this album’s first single, “Wishing Well”, are a pair of tracks to inspire positivity and hope, but at the same time they take two different approaches. While “With The Right Set…” is darker and more haunting in tone, “Wishing Well” is only slightly so – as if one is knocking sense into the listener, while the latter plays the role of consoling confidant.
“Sometimes” has the tune of a novelty piano chiming along to lyrics about “being caught in the shit storm” of false friends who are only around when you’ve got the fame and fortune. It is the best kind of irony, and one I thoroughly enjoy – ragtime about going from rags to riches and back.
By far, my favorite track at this point had to be “Tumblin’ Down” if for no other reason than Rogers’ guitar playing superiority – especially towards the 3 minute mark. Travis belts it out with passion that is simply profound, but the eclectic eletricity in the strings of this song makes it a gem. Enter “Down On The Pharmacy” (a touch of natural wordplay here) has as one would expect, a blues flavor. Musically speaking, it is a good song with lots of Americana strewn about it, but lyrically it is pure genius.
“Make A Difference” comes off like a heavy Lennon song, with gritty-yet-folksy classic rock guitar and political metaphors all over the place:
“Money, Bills and secret guns
I know I cant help everyone,
But I can take on one or two
Thats what Ill do.”
I make this my next favorite, easily – what can one say except that I’m a sucker for political poetry.
Speaking of poetry, “Harmful Belly” – which seems inspired by poet Pablo Neruda – is a very misleading title in that the song itself makes more of a reference to the pain of love and the facial expressions associated with it. How it got it’s title eludes me, but it is a wonderful tune for those of you sympathize easily when someone close to you hurts. “Last Laugh” has an introduction that resembles old folk music, but then runs through the vocals and chorus with a classic rock tinge reminiscent of Pink Floyd (happily jumps up and down), “Hypnotized” is by far the most melancholy-yet-inspirational track on the album, with powerful lyrics that are almost 70s retro – which isn’t uncommon on any Blind Melon album.
“Father Time” didn’t really stand out to me all that much, but I’ll leave that to listeners in deciding it’s total worth. “So High” is just as mellow (electric guitars included) as its title conveys, and so we meet with our beloved closing track. “Cheetum Street” is one of those slow closers that can go either way, so luckily it went positive – personal and deep. With references to both life and love, it rolls smoothly and begs for one to just sit back and enjoy the music.
In saying that, I am happy to announce that For My Friends is one of my favorite albums of the 2008 summer season – quite possibly the whole year, thus far. It is a simple, straightforward album with passion akin to previous works that both stands alone as Warren’s debut to songwriting and together with the entire catalog. It is hard to surpass Shannon, but this album is more about celebrating life and continuity than mourning the past. One can only hope other musicians are this succinct in their messages.