Todd Snider’s “Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables”
If you consider Bruce’s recent album of hazy metaphors and stadium anthems protest music Todd Snider’s Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables might be a little bit too direct, a little too honest and might even hit a little too close to home. Snider doesn’t mince words and he isn’t subtle and maybe that’s because he doesn’t have to worry about alienating fans since he probably drove off any sensitive Santorumites with “Conservative Christian Right Wing Republican Straight White American Males”. Todd is pissed off at what is going and gone on from the greed and misuse of religion described “In The Beginning” to the teacher whose retirement was gambled away by some “New York Banker”.
Yes, Todd still can make you laugh but these are often uncomfortable laughs and a little bit painful. The acoustic “Precious Little Miracles” sounds like a silly little ditty until you listen to the lyrics and realize it is a satirical cranky rant against kids that could have been lifted from a Newt Gingrich speech (“go down to the park and pick up all the garbage”) or written by that vigilante in Florida (“Kids, with their pants around their hipbones, who wears their pants like that?”).
There are literally millions of kids who are coping with shitty schools, generational poverty and a bleak future who need much more than the useless advice they are routinely given and at least Todd is speaking up for them.
The song styles are more varied than you might expect and the album at times sounds almost like demos, recorded in a rush with a bunch of friends who had a week in a recording studio but it all works as Todd sings with the rawness and urgency of a man on a mission. Although Snider has stated that his goal is “Not to change your mind about anything but to ease my own mind about everything,” that doesn’t really ring true with this, his most political, his most angry album to date.
The economy is still on shaky ground as “the rich get richer, the poor get sorer”*, unemployment is too high and nobody has any idea when or if the housing market will recover. Hopefully the economy does bounce back and fans can go back to singing along with “Beer Run” and not “In Between Jobs” where the character wonders “what’s keeping me from killing this guy and taking his shit”. This might not be Todd’s best album but it might be his most important.
Agnostic Hymns is timely but hopefully not timeless. And here’s to better days:
*Ian Hunter “Shrunken Heads”