CD Review – John Hiatt “Mystic Pinball”
On the cover shot of his latest, Mystic Pinball, John Hiatt looks like a blurry version of Tom Waits. But when you open him up, it’s vintage Hiatt at his hyena-yowling best.
“We’re All Right Now” is a great opener, the breakout single, blasting away with an instant imprint capability as strong as his ’83 triumph, “Riding With The King.”
The first time through, that cut so overshadowed the others that it was tempting to dismiss the release as not up to his usual standards. But on repeated listening, Hiatt’s songs worm their way into your head.
“Bite Marks” is Hiatt at his fiendish best, a shout out to a girlfriend whose idea of fun is drawin’ blood, going right for the jugular with bared incisors.
The lyrics to “It All Comes Back Someday” lyrics are Paul Thorn worthy, memories of his former beloved going a hundred miles an hour through the trailer park helmetless on a motorcycle, but it’d be even more powerful if the melody had more Warren Zevon in it and less Jimmy Buffett.
“Wood Chipper” is Halloween material, with Hiatt speaking from a dead man’s perspective, murdered and ground up for bait in a wood chipper when he interrupted his ex-darlin’s getaway plan by discovering her and her partner with their swag in their Midwest deep woods hideaway. Hiatt’s lyrical mix of the mundane and the murderous is exquisite, down to the product placement of Little Debbie Snack Cakes being found on a grocery list in the pocket of his runaway bride’s corpse.
Hiatt gets down and dirty with “One Of Them Damn Days,” a bloozy, blurry excuse for a binge based on a sighting of yet another ex- beloved who Hiatt has run off when he turned drunk and mean, swinging a wrecking ball through their lives as well as his own.
“Give It Up” is a honky-tonk fueled plea to a buddy to straighten up “before we’re cryin’ in someone’s grave.”
Hiatt’s work has always been impossible to categorize, and thankfully that shows no signs of changing. The only constant in his music is that it’s always gloriously twisted and gnarly. Once it touches you, its roots entwine you so thoroughly in Hiatt-ness that you can’t cut loose. You just relax in his embrace and wait for the next one to come along and grab you.