Jordan Zevon – Insides Out (2008)

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by Pico

When Julian Lennon unfurled his debut Valotte back in 1984 about four years following his father’s untimely death, it gave John Lennon fans hope that the offspring could pick up where his Dad left off. We know now that the expectations were unrealistic and try as he might on later releases, Jules just couldn’t make a go at putting down his own imprint on rock.

Today, we have another story set up in a similar way: one of rock’s most keen observers and sharply witty composers and singers leaves us long before we were ready, and about four years later, his son launches his own solo recording career. But Jordan Zevon has a distinct advantage: he was never under the glaring spotlight and the pressure that came with it to live up to his bloodline that Julian Lennon endured.

That blessing might also be a curse. Insides Out has been out since April 15, and it seemed to have slipped under the radar. That’s a damned shame. This is a solid record from beginning to end, and not in the way you might think it is.

Jordan didn’t really try at all to make a post-mortem Warren Zevon album; if anything, he made a pretty good disc of music normally associated with Julian’s father’s band: The Beatles. From the opening, “Taxman” riffs of “The Joke’s On Me” to the “Hello Goodbye” purcussive piano of “Just Do That,” Zevon is wearing his Beatles influences on his sleeve more often than not. Jordan’s Andy Partridge styled vocals and clever lyrics sometimes makes it sound as though he’s channeling the Beatles through an XTC filter, and the harder guitar edges combined with a bigger, New Wave beat sometimes recalls Elvis Costello. Other times, Goldfinger or ELO’s Jeff Lynne comes to mind.

Hey, if you’re gonna choose to sound like those who came before you, choose wisely and nail it. JZ’s got it down good.

Make no mistake, though, Jordan Zevon is not running away from his famous father; he picked Warren’s obscure downtrodden gem “Studebaker” for his one cover. “Studebaker” was never released in Warren’s lifetime, but appears here as sung by Jordan as it did for the WZ tribute Enjoy Every Sandwich. Not only does he do the song justice, but reveals that away from all the multi-tracked vocals and bright, hook-laden melodies, there’s a voice that sounds quite the chip off the old block.

The family way shows up here and there in the lyrics, too. A line like “there’s a message in this bottle, and I’ll drink until I find it” is vintage Excitable Boy. For “American Standard,” Jordan dredges up the heavily cynical sarcasm of his forebear, although that’s been more the exception rather than the rule here. The important thing is that none of these hand-me-down tactics ever seem forced; his father indisputably is part of who he is, but not the dominant part.

The tight arrangements and well-formed originals suggest that Jordan Zevon came to the studio well prepared. He took his time and crafted a smooth but not overly-slick pop-rock delight packed with hooks that seems to be hard to find in mainstream music today. Insides Out is not getting to attention that awaited Julian Lennon’s first album, but Mr. Jordan’s career might actually follow through on the promise shown here.
  

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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