our score: 3.0 out of 5.0
Beating a Dead Horse?
lest we forget, is the band that is still famous for "A Horse
With No Name," the 1972 Neil Young-influenced smash with the refrain
"in the desert you can remember your name" (is it so hard anywhere
else?) A few other catchy-but-innocuous America singles followed
in the next few years, but by the late '70s, bands like this were
the target of loud mouthed punks everywhere and quickly became
irrelevant. By 1990, America was headlining at the Cape Cod Melody
Tent, and worse yet, Starship was their opening act.
So why buy
a new America album in 1999? To be truthful, life has gone on
just fine without them, but they can still crack a smile occasionally.
Human Nature, like each and every one of their '70s albums,
starts with 'H' and contains just enough feel-good-about-yourself
California mellow psychedelia to satisfy anyone cruising down
the Sunset Strip on a hot August night. The mystical "Pages" urges
to "Step inside and find the other you." The folkish "From a Moving
Train" rides the travelling man myth adequately - "I've seen the
Ides of March and the fall of Rome / I've seen all kinds of stuff
but I've never seen my home." "Wheels Are Turning" fulfills a
similar function - "Step outside and take a breath of the morning
/ and the wind will tell you which way to go." Wow, man, deep.
is also true to America form in its utter confusion and disconnectedness
between the songs. One minute it's introspective and idealistic,
which, as "A Horse With No Name" dictated, tends to be America's
true calling, but the next minute it's utterly shallow and indistinguishable
from any other arena rock. "Hot Town," with the refrain "it's
gonna be a hot town / hot town tonight" and the lame hip hop lite
of "Hidden Talent" are straight out of the Kenny Loggins school
of songwriting, and make America's darker side sound like epic
poetry. Perhaps most embarrassing is the "Overwhelming World Suite,"
consisting of three parts - the dippy ballad with the same name
as the suite, the cute Beach Boy pop of "Come Back" and the finale
"Barstow," a tribute to a small California town that serves little
purpose other than to tell you how far you are from L.A. As three
separate songs, this could be OK. But as a "Suite?" There may
be some sort of deep connection here, but it's lost on me.
They do recover.
"Whispering" is one of the prettiest songs they've ever done,
and "Oloololo" is the top of the line philosophic schlock that
America does best. They leave us with "And the river was flowing
/ while the crocodiles baked in the sun / was the elephant knowing
/ that a change had already begun?" Now that's more like it.
to be an aging hippie, but America have been aging hippies for
more than 20 years, so by now they've mastered the art of being,
as the Rolling Stone would put it, "yesterday's papers," and have
stopped trying to regain past glories, merely putting out acceptable
product and hoping that their aging hippie audience will still
dig it. Save for a brief 1982 return to the spotlight with the
hit "You Can Do Magic," that is precisely what has happened. But
Human Nature is one of their better 'acceptable products'
and should be given a listen.
liked Human Nature...
From a Moving Train
2. Wednesday Morning
3. Town and Country
4. Moment to Moment
5. Hidden Talent
6. Wheels are Turning
7. World Alone
8. Overwhelming World Suite
10. Hot Town