Song of the Day #4,695: ‘Time the Conqueror’ – Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne waited six years to release his next album, 2008’s Time the Conqueror. Perhaps that wasn’t long enough.

I’m sorry to report that this record is the first in Browne’s catalog that did nothing for me from start to finish. The songs are too long and they lack memorable hooks. Every album I’ve heard so far has served up at least one track I consider a keeper, but not this one.

Not only does this album get boringly political, but it serves up a song about George Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina that runs just shy of 10 minutes. If you’re going to put an op-ed to music, at least do it in under five.

I feel like I should make it clear to my dear readers that I have no problem whatsoever with Browne’s politics. I agree with pretty much every stance he takes. I just prefer my political commentary in the New York Times, CNN, or even Twitter, not in my music collection.

Personal or political, though, Time the Conqueror is missing the spark of inspiration I’ve heard in all of Browne’s albums to date. He sounds tired.

With one album to go, I’m curious to see if this was a turning point in his career or if he returned to form on the next (last) one.

Time on my side, a stowaway in the slipstream
A time I could glide the shifting currents of my dream
In my dream the singing was coming from the sky
In my dream the sunlight was falling from one side
And every blade of grass was casting its own shadow
And every little bird was singing its own song

Time in my mind, the past of least resistance
The future almost blind, both in need of assistance
In my mind the question: Sunrise or sunset?
In my mind I’m certain: Nothing’s certain yet
With every grain of sand casting its own shadow
And every ray of the sun flashing on the sea
Time may heal all wounds
But time will steal you blind
Time the wheel, time the conqueror

Time to decide what kind of world I believe in
The world open wide
Or the world about to stop breathing
In my world I’m standing just inside the door
In my world I’m speaking into the ocean’s roar
And every thought of you casts its own little shadow
And everything I wanted, subject to review
Time may heal all wounds
But time will steal you blind
Time the wheel, time the conqueror
Time will heal all wounds but time

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,695: ‘Time the Conqueror’ – Jackson Browne

  1. Amy says:

    This is what the casual fan of an artist gets to avoid. We know only the best and most popular songs, along with those beloved deeper cuts that will always be played on tour, but we get to avoid the valleys in his career that do the artist no favors. I imagine there are fans (Russ?) who might appreciate songs the casual fan considers forgettable. I certainly hope so for Browne’s sake.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    As I have not heard this album, I am not going to die on this hill in defending political songs. However, I do find it odd that you feel politics has no place in music and it does seem you are a bit inconsistent in this opinion. Some of the artists you hold most dear, or at least like a lot or have praised on this blog, including Dylan, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Eminem, The Smiths, M.I.A, Public Enemy, N.W.A., etc., are considered among the most political musicians of all time.

    You also don’t seem to have an issue mixing other forms of art, most particularly movies, with politics. Hell, I seem to recall you once saying you have watched Schindler’s List over a dozen times!

    And, sure, I get not liking politics in any art form that is too “on the nose” or “ripped from the headlines,” but songs like Dylan’s “Hurricane,” Beatles/Lennon’s “Revolution,” or Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” or movies like “The Manchurian Candidate” or “All the President’s Men” were just that at the time they were made—it’s just that they were not made in YOUR time of political or social conscious—not on YOUR nose or ripped from YOUR headlines. Perhaps you would like political songs from the 80s to today if you were discovering them for the first time a few decades after their release or a few decades from now through the lens of a more historical perspective?

    • Clay says:

      First, I’d counter that the more overtly political songs by the artists you named are not the ones I like best, or even like at all in some cases. Elvis Costello is one of my all-time favorite artists, but I hate ‘Tramp the Dirt Down.’

      Doing this deep dive has made me much more of a Jackson Browne fan even if I dislike his political songs. I love quite a few of his albums, just like I love albums by the people you name above. That doesn’t mean I love everything they release.

      Second, movies and music are two completely different mediums that work in different ways. What’s the musical equivalent of Schindler’s List? Even so, I’m cold on “message movies” that aren’t otherwise provocative, entertaining or emotional. And that’s how I’d classify Jackson Browne’s political songs.

      • Dana Gallup says:

        Wow, you hate “Tramp the Dirt Down?” Not saying it’s my favorite EC song, but hate is pretty strong – you really do have a pet peeve with political songs, though apparently less so for those written in the 60s and 70s.😜

        And I get that movies are different than music, but, as to your question, perhaps the Schindler’s List equivalent would be something like Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” or Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” or CSN&Y’s “Ohio.”

        Meanwhile, I get not liking overtly political songs that are not otherwise provocative, emotional or entertaining, but I disagree that this is the case for all Jackson Browne’s songs, particularly those on “Lives in the Balance,” and especially the title track.

  3. Peg says:

    I think a ten minute song on Bush and Katrina would put anyone over the edge. No wonder he sounds tired!

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