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Life'll Kill Ya

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Life'll Kill Ya

Artist: Warren Zevon
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: January 2000

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

Life'll Kill Ya is a fairly typical Warren Zevon record. That's not a bad thing. Life'll Kill Ya is Zevon's usual mix of nihilism, self doubt, scrappiness and sincere ballads and he does it all pretty well.

Life'll Kill Ya is solid throughout and reaches greatness on a couple deceptively pleasant sounding midtempo songs about Zevon's screwed up romantic life. On For My Next Trick I'll Need A Volunteer and I'll Slow You Down, Zevon abandons his usual low register. His voice adds poignance as he strains, failing to reach the high notes. For My Next Trick sounds a little like Zevon's Johnny Strikes Up The Band and Springsteen's Promised Land. Zevon's piano and harmonica create a jaunty mood as he sings about being better at making love disappear than putting it together. On I'll Slow You Down, Zevon does a steady REM style guitar line. Zevon's vocal lacks Michael Stipe's facility but it has his yearning as he gives on a woman unwilling to work on improving their relationship.

Life'll Kill Ya has a number of cheeky rockers that are similar to Zevon's previous work but still good fun. I Was In The House When The House Burned Down, like Excitable Boy, is about a guy who's happily way outside societal norms. It has the fairly minimal sound of much of the record but Zevon creates a fun mood with his acoustic and hamonica. Reminscent of Angel Dressed In Black's claim of "suckin' a bowl of crack", Zevon starts, "I had the shit 'til it all got smoked." Later, he brags about helping Jesus carry his cross. Porcelain Monkey is a good serious, straight forward rocker like Finishing Touches or Sentimental Hygiene. Zevon bitterly sings about how Elvis Presley and "his regicidal friends" threw away his greatness. With harmonica and brushed drums, Zevon creates a suitable revival feel for Dirty Little Religion, mischievously trying to win a woman by promising a conversion to a rapturous experience. My Shit's Fucked Up is an enjoyable throwaway. Accompanied only by his acoustic, Zevon asks his doctor why he's feeling rough and gets the title's existential response.

Life'll Kill Ya's quiet songs about finding perspective with age are thoughtful if not always so exciting. On the title track, Zevon tells us, over an elegant piano, we're all gonna die. With only his acoustic and muted harmonies and percussion, Zevon nicely reinvents Steve Winwood's confident Back In The High Life, sounding strangely satisfied with life even as his vocal implies his hopes for a comeback are questionable. On Hostage-O, over a simple acoustic playing a melody like Tracks Of My Tears, Zevon quietly promises to risk humiliation and loss of control to avoid loneliness.

Most of Life'll Kill Ya seems familiar but only at the end do the songs have nothing new to offer. Fistful Of Rain is the kind of song Don Henley or some other California rocker would do to show their country authenticity. Ourselves To Know is a pleasant but fairly empty attempt to draw a parallel between the crusades and a search for self understanding. Don't Let Us Get Sick isn't particularly meaningful but it does finish Life'll Kill Ya on a decent note, matching earlier songs with an appreciation of being "with someone I like" and the hope that growing old won't be too awful.

Zevon's brief period of success was more than 20 years ago, but he's kept a pretty good perspective. He isn't trying for a big hit but he also doesn't seem to have given up. Zevon's still a good songwriter with a fresh perspective. Life'll Kill Ya isn' t quite as good as 1991's Mr. Bad Example, the best record of the second half of Zevon's career, but it's a good group of songs, simply presented without a lot of superfluous rock and roll embellishment. The songs on Life'll Kill Ya are mature but not boring and Zevon still has his sense of humor and fun.



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