America: Homecoming

Come on. You didn’t think ‘Horse With No Name’ and ‘Ventura Highway’ would get these guys voted into the pantheon of CSN&Y Springalopoco second-liners where such as the redoubtable Guess Who (‘Those Eyes’) and Stampeders (‘Sweet City Woman’) resided for awhile before packing off to greener pastures, did you?

That was just initial surface scratch. Where this lukewarm expatriate combo belongs is at the absolute head of seventy-twoish Blandrock, that ignominious contemporary subgenre whose ascent has been torched by stalwarts like Bread, Gallery, Jonathan Edwards, the new Neil Diamond and the ever-glossy T of P, Al Green and, only by indirect taint, James Taylor, Neil Young and those everlovin’ Carpenters.

Never mind that it’s mediocrity en excelsis, gutless and indulgent, vacuous and acoustic. This bass and drumless trio of simpering Seventies rollos decorating the cover, with their upswept 3-part croon, off-balance leads and mournful ego-sobs, represent the smiling countenance of what is so far the single most pervasive radio trend of the new decade. Their transparent half-melodies and almost maddening thinness and lack of imagination cover both dials and have been known to drive intolerant rock ‘n’ roll motorists just a little insane on numerous occasions. But they do connect to the main body of rock stuff, somewhere around where the forlorn Bee Gees and the winsome Lobo hang out, and hell, their naivete and the insolent stupidity of their lyrics are too good to pass up!

With squeaking frets, chandelier piano, a persistent wimp melody and oblique scraps of California Myth scattered throughout, ‘Ventura Highway’ is the group’s stupidest hit yet and a real contender for this month’s Blandrock crown; white, glassy, colorless space maneuvers, that’s all, and absolute verbal outrage; phrases like “wind blowing through your hair,” “nights stronger than moonshine,” “purple rain” riding around that idiotic guitar figure. They don’t even try to disguise the fact that the singer’s heavy two-line conversation with free spirit Joe is an idle means of filling up unused musical space. This is great!

What else? Nothing you’d remember me telling you. ‘Don’t Cross That River’ timidly approaches Thunderclap Newman on a run down night, ‘Cornwall Blank’ redoes ‘Wooden Ships’, and ‘Saturn Nights’ breaks into a one-riff-factored-to-infinity scheme like most of After The Goldrush.

But that’s all peripheral, just like America’s music. What we have here is the perfect imperfection of a major Seventies strain seen up close. No opaque tones, depth or gross appendages left hanging out, just well-polished surface gloss, shining aural accompaniment to four more years, the Rise of Vapidity and the global enshrinement of Blandrock.

Put on either side of Homecoming, sit back and if you try, visions of the embittered P.F. Sloan of 1965 and the arms-folded Standells will materialize. After all, part of what made those two greats so much fun was their total naivete and lack of ‘integrity’ in the face of the musical identities they parlayed into quickflash immortality. Shameless teen wimps caught by public favor in the midst of performing gross imitations of their very own pop idols under the hot lights, they prospered in a disarming, funny sort of way that once again proved the existence of the undecipherable magic ethos of this parallel rock & roll world. It isn’t that far between ‘Sins Of The Family’, ‘Mainline’ and ‘Horse With No Name’. Enjoy it now and later too.

© Gene SculattiCreem, February 1973

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