Okemah and the Melody of Riot
I like Jay Farrar and Son Volt as much as the next guy. No, scratch that. I like Jay Farrar and Son Volt way more than most people. I’ve had drunken arguments where I yell and scream about Farrar’s contributions to Uncle Tupelo being far better than Jeff Tweedy’s, and I think the first Son Volt record, Trace, puts the first Wilco record to shame.
That was a long time ago, though. And since around 1997, Jay Farrar’s recorded output has been shaky to say the least. The last Son Volt record was terrible, which is why it wasn’t particularly upsetting when they broke up. His solo records have been similarly disappointing, though — and by disappointing, I mean b-o-r-i-n-g — so with Son Volt back together, I was ready to give the guy another chance to come up big.
He didn’t. They didn’t. Despite the dramatic, evocative title, Okemah and the Melody of Riot is probably the least exciting record you’ll hear all year. It’s essentially an entire album full of the kind of songs you skipped on all the good Son Volt records: slightly twangy, mid-tempo numbers with mumbled lyrics and uninspiring instrumental passages. And if that wasn’t bad enough, even on songs like ‘Jet Pilot,’ where Farrar and the gang stray a bit from the norm, he goes and ruins it by pontificating high school-style about some “revolution” that’s apparently going to be “televised.” Come on.
When he was at his best, Jay Farrar could make you feel glad to be alive. He made you want to travel, see things and generally become the kind of free spirit you always thought you’d become. On Okemah, though, he mostly just makes you want to sit around and sulk, lamenting the fact that it’s about to get even harder to convince your friends that Tweedy was once a hack in comparison.