On The True False Identity, his first studio album since 1992, T-Bone's compositional ideas sound awfully youthful. Lyrically, songs feel fractured and indulgent. They feel more like poems set to music, except not with as much panache as classic Bob Dylan (Burnett played in Dylan's band at one stage).
The lack of songwriting punch is a little disappointing. Make no mistake, it's more than respectable, but for an artist of Burnett's pedigree, it's less than his best. The opener "Zombieland" , and "Palestine Texas" feel particuarly rushed and incompletely delivered, and threaten to lose listeners in those first few critical minutes.
On the other hand, TFI exhibits remarkably exciting production and arrangement. The deep watery tones of a plucked double bass, trapped between the sharp rattles of percussive shakers and brushes and whatever else is being beaten on really creates an intimate, dirty texture.
Sometimes the rhythmic tapping sounds like a plastic laundry bucket, and you'd swear there was a bottle of Jack Daniel's being shaken around inside it. Even the guitars are fuzzed and distorted and lo-fied and all but strangled for breath - you can almost literally smell the dust off the wooden slatted floors.
The standout track is "Fear Country", an obvious take on US paranoia and cynicism ("They don't make imposters like John Wayne anymore"). Hey, Lou Reed could have made this as an afterthought to Transformer (1972), if he felt inclined to sit down with some kitchen utensils and cook it up.
As for the rest, you'll feel an attachment to parts of songs rather than entire ones. Flawed as it is in the songwriting department, The True False Identity is decent, if not ultimately satisfying.
- Anton Marshall
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