Unlike my last deep dive subject, Browne’s friend and collaborator Joni Mitchell, his music did not fall off a cliff in the 80s. While I struggled with a couple of Browne’s albums due to their didactic political lyrics, the music was almost always spot on. He expertly evolved his sound without losing the earnest romanticism that made his work special out of the gate.
Continuing his pattern of waiting six years between albums, Jackson Browne released his most recent full-length effort, Standing in the Breach, in 2014. At 72, it’s unclear if this will be his last album, though he did release a song for Earth Day last year and has a couple of other small projects under his belt in the past few years.
If Standing in the Breach does prove to be his swan song, it’s a good and fitting one. The album finds Browne in a contemplative, nostalgic mood, and the easy, laid back sound is fitting for a record on which the best songs are about peaceful acceptance.
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.
It’s also the longest record he’s ever released, its ten songs running a full hour. Six of these tracks run six or seven minutes, turning it into a test of patience at times. Often that padded running time is dedicated to long instrumental interludes, which doesn’t help.
The political songs made a comeback, but fortunately they don’t dominate the album and, for the most part, they are more subtle than earlier efforts. That said, I have to call him out for this particularly awful verse:
To make us think we care about the planet
At the same time polluting and looting the only world we’ve got
So they can maximize their profit?