Almost ten years ago Pete Yorn stormed out of the gates with his brilliant debut album Music For The Morning After, which is still one of my favorite albums of the last decade. That album had hints of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska with its melancholic tone and spare song structures. However, his output since then has been a little spotty, culminating in last year's collaboration with Scarlett Johansson. But hey, I'll forgive him since he recorded an album with Scarlett freakin' Johansson.
Well, now Yorn is back with his self-titled fifth album. And he's back in a big way. This time Yorn has brought in Frank Black (aka Black Francis) from the legendary Pixies to produce. This collaboration has definitely jolted some new life into Yorn. The end result is a great batch of tunes with more of a raw edge compared to Yorn's earlier work. Yorn hasn't sounded this loose and lively since his cover of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" a few years ago.
The album opens with the garage rocker "Precious Stone," which begins with some haunting background vocals vaguely reminiscent of "Where Is My Mind." With Black on hand behind the booth, there are definitely more than a few nods to the Pixies. For instance, Yorn attempts a few Frank Black yelps on occasion and alternates between spoken word verses and quasi-screaming choruses on the furious "Badman." Black's production has the feel of a band playing live off the floor.
While Black's influence is evident (and more than welcome), this is still definitely a Pete Yorn album. Lyrically, he doesn't sing about slicing up eyeballs or monkeys going to heaven. Instead, with his everyman voice, Yorn focuses on love, lust and... um... velcro shoes. I think it's safe to say that Yorn is the first artist in history to record a song called "Velcro Shoes."
The standout track of the album is "The Chase," which features the lines "I can see you anytime/ That's why I don't care/ I want what isn't there." It's a little harsh but I'm sure a lot of people can relate to this sentiment. Another highlight is "Rock Crowd," which is essentially an ode to his fans, dealing with the "shared experience" of a performer and audience at a show. A song like this has the potential of verging on Nickelback territory. However, this sounds like it could've been a lost Springsteen track.
This album is being hailed as Yorn's "return to form" album and rightfully so. It's definitely worth checking out. You can check out his performance of "Velcro Shoes" on Jimmy Fallon below...