I like to think of Don Henley as one of rock’s biggest nutters. This may sound a little unkind, but if his four studio albums are anything to go by when trying to get a glimpse of what makes this man tick, then I think I’m pretty much on the money. 1982’s I Can’t Stand Still saw him take aim at the tabloids who dared report on the absolute debauchery that his band lived in on “Dirty Laundry.” And on “Johnny Can’t Read,” he did have a point to make as he poured out his frustration about the education system. Not all bad, I know, but his progression into madness had to start somewhere.
His massive 1984 LP, Building The Perfect Beast is still the most ‘80s sounding album ever made, and although he shook it up a little and had some fun, he did scatter his politics throughout the record, which in the context of the album seems impossible to get a grip on where he stands on certain subjects that he raises. His next album, The End Of The Innocence (from 1989) is a hard one to sit through because he just added more political statements and subtracted some fun from his previous effort.
Whatever his motivation is, Henley is a pretty crafty songwriter and there are some fine songs on his most recent solo album, 2000’s Inside Job. Having said that, there is also some rampant stupidity that just makes no sense at all either way I look at it. I’ll get to that in a minute, but let me say first that the production of this album is superb and the cavalcade of session players used here all earned their money, it sounds great. Henley sounds great singing about his new wife at the time and how she saved his soul on “For My Wedding” and “Everything Is Different.”
Equally pleasing is the funky opener “Nobody Else In The World But You” featuring Stevie Wonder, but Don’s ranting again and I’ve got no idea who is the object of ire on this one. “Taking You Home” follows and is a pleasant enough song, but all of this is just the calm before Hurricane Henley unleashes his anger and destroys everything in his path. This happens across two songs that would have made decent rockers had it not been a Henley album.
“Workin’ It” is first and despite playing it a dozen times, I’m still thinking “Who’s workin’ who Don?” He’s ranting about the government again and the state his homeland is in: “Welcome to the land of flame and fizz, where you will learn that packaging is all that heaven is.” Nice one. But that’s just the start of it, because “We’re so busy covering our asses, that we just can’t commit / We say back off, don’t bother me baby / Can’t you see I’m workin’ it.” Commit to what, Don? Workin’ what, Don? In between this, he unleashes a tirade on everything from the media (again) to talk shows and yuppies, just for doing what they do. It seems as though he never makes clear just what is pissing him off so damn much.
Finally his descent into madness is complete with the insane title track that has to be heard to be believed. Again he is vague about who is conducting these inside jobs, but it could possibly be every government department, every corporation and every Mom and Pop store for all I know. He wails about “men in towers” screwing everyone over and just goes on from there to hammer it home again and again. He’s clearly worried about something – the invasion of privacy seems to be at the forefront of this one – but its just so bonkers it loses any credibility in my mind.
He then launches into “They’re Not Here, They’re Not Coming,” during which he informs us that UFO’s piloted by little green men with “great big heads” are all fiction. Fair enough if you don’t buy into all that stuff, but Don knows for sure and he wrote this stupid little song to tell us – oh, and he also wants us to stop fighting and hating each other and then maybe they’ll drop in and say hi.
Don does, however, believe in ghosts; he wrote a song about that, too (“Miss Ghost”) and after all of that insanity he then returns to his loves (wife and daughter) and gives us a lovely ballad “Annabel” and the closer (eight songs too late) “My Thanksgiving.”
So what could have been Henley’s best solo album, turned out to be a collision of ideas and sounds that never quite works. And while I have nothing against artists using their craft to make political and social statements, it helps when said statements are well thought out and clearly articulated so we the listeners know what’s being said and why they’re saying it. Inside Job sounds like Don just ripped pages out of his diary and put the words to music, and if that’s what indeed took place here, than I hope he’s found some help over the last decade or so, ’cause boy did he need it.
|This is a very bizarre review and leaves me with no sense of the actual record being reviewed. It's a collection of songs, no Meet The Press. I can list a hundred albums that make no sense starting with Sgt Pepper but that doesn't make them bad.|
|What are you talking about?|
Sgt. Pepper makes perfect sense.