Last month Bruce Springsteen released his newest album, "Wrecking Ball." And like most things Bruce, it was hailed by most critics, and said to represent the zeitgeist of a struggling America. But if you ask me, another album released on the same day did a better job of capturing the moment.
"Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables" by Todd Snider takes the listener on a journey from the dawn of religion through today's eonomic hardships.
"Ain't it a son of a bitch / To think that we would still need religion / To keep the poor from killing the rich?" Snider sings on the album's first track. That song, called "In the Beginning," postulates that religion was invented to insulate the rich. Without the thought that something bigger was watching over everyone, what would keep the poor from killing and stealing from those who had more? It's a central question in an album that is very much about the haves and the have-nots of the world.
And it's easy to tell which side Snider associates with. He performs barefoot on stage, which belies how he stands on the issues (on an older song called "Conservative Christian, Right Wing Republican Straight White American Males" he calls himself a "tree huggin', peace lovin', pot smokin', porn watchin'...skin color-blinded, conspiracy-minded, protestor of corporate greed.") I once tried to sneak backstage and visit with Snider, but his manager kicked me out of the green room after I told him I didn't have any rolling papers. That probably says all you need to know about his lifestyle.
So it's not a surprise that those who have are often painted as the villains in Snider's story. In "New York Banker", he tells of an Arkansas teacher bamboozled out of his life savings. "Though none of our people had ever quite sensed it / Come to find out the bond born to fail'd been built / So that banker could bet his bread against it," he sings.
It's not as funny as other Snider albums. But that's because even for a happy-go-lucky hippie, things just aren't all that funny these days.
"So your school is a joke, and you'll always be poor," Snider sings on the "Precious Little Miracles". "And your pleas to the rich have been heard and ignored / Is that what all you crazy kids are so upset for?"