It’s amazing to think that it’s been 20 years since Joe Walsh last released a solo album, but with Eagles tours and suchlike, he’s apparently been too busy. Judging by Analog Man‘s title track, he’s also been too busy to get himself an iPad or buy shares in Facebook.
Sardonic humour has always been a part of Walsh’s songwriting, of course, and Analog Man (the song and the album) has plenty of it. Unfortunately, when you get past a certain age, that kind of humour can be mistaken for grumpiness, particularly when you’re railing against modern technology and yearning for simpler times. But there’s a serious point being made behind all the complaints about not knowing how anything works anymore.
“When something goes wrong/ I don’t have a clue/ Some 10 year old smart-ass has to show me what to do” he says, but he also questions what kind of world digital has given us, where nothing actually exists, it’s all on a screen. He’s equally full of foreboding on Band Played On, which uses Titanic references (hence the title) to warn of a world going to hell in a handbasket. Hardly original stuff, but delivered with passion enough to be interesting.
Key to the success of Analog Man is getting Jeff Lynne on board as producer, which gives the album a very familiar ‘classic rock’ sound that adds a lot of gloss to the more sentimental tracks. Walsh has been through a lot since his last release, getting sober and raising a family, and those things are addressed on Lucky That Way (painted as a ‘sequel’ to Life’s Been Good), Family and One Day At A Time.
The danger with sincere, heartfelt songs like that is that they can come across as little more than treacle in the wrong hands, and some of the lyrics are a little clunky at times. But Walsh’s solo works have always had more of an edge than what he’s done with the Eagles, and he remains a breathtakingly good guitarist when he lets rip on tracks like Wrecking Ball and Funk 50 (updating the James Gang‘s Funk #49).
After 20 years’ wait, it’s perhaps a bit disappointing that Analog Man comes and goes in less than 40 minutes, but that ensures that it’s lean enough not to have much filler. Hi-Roller Baby is another highlight, as is the world music-y closing instrumental India. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another two decades for a follow-up, because this is a fine return to solo action.
The Hives have arguably been making the same song for 15 years now, but Lex Hives shows that, like The Ramones, these Swedish garage-rockers have got the charm and talent to make that a positive, rather than a negative comment. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it does deliver plenty of thrilling moments and the usual amount of delightfully cocky swagger.