“This madness has to stop.” Those words by Patterson Hood are at the emotional core of the Drive-by Truckers new record, The Unraveling. Coming almost four years after American Band, this is a record that nobody really wanted to make. “They’re literally putting children in cages. Writing silly love songs just seemed the height of privilege,” Hood notes.
There is no longer one United States. How can there be when a president is impeached yet it’s a foregone conclusion he will not be convicted? Against such a mind-boggling backdrop it’s easy to hear the anger and bitterness ablaze in the guitars on ‘Armageddon’s Back In Town’, with drums pummelling the song into submission while the lyrical bile spills out: “The dye has been cast. Symbolisms so pronounced that there’s nothing left to wonder or explain. There’ll be no healing from the art of double-dealing.”
Turning the guitars down and the organ of Jay Gonzalez up on ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ only puts more emphasis on the lyrics: “The powers that be are in for shame and comeuppance, when Generation Lockdown has their day; they’ll throw the bums all out, and drain the swamp for real.” The acoustic guitar that opens ‘Babies in Cages’ only serves to underscore the horror: “The world wakes up this morning, I’m sorry for the news. Wrapped up in a tinfoil blanket without any shoes, babies in cages.”
There are times when it’s hard to hear the litany of evils that currently undercut the fabric of the America. Never more so than on Mike Cooley’s ‘Grievance Merchants’, where against the chugging guitars Cooley wonders about “Merchants selling young men reclamation. Merchants selling old men back their dreams.” The American dream seems to looking backward rather than forward, not a particularly appealing notion.
From the opening snare and lonely guitar, ‘Awaiting Resurrection’ begins a slow build over eight and a half minutes. The tension builds as Hood lays out a desolate message of despair, built on the rejection of truth, military parades designed to expose might instead of right, dirty deals designed to win elections. Unraveling indeed.
From the cross hairs of a gun to the cross roads of the American Dream, a turning point approaches. There is no question on The Unraveling about which way the Drive-by Truckers want to see the country and the world turn. People are listening, but are they simply preachin’ to the choir?