Magazine article The New Yorker

DEADLY UNSERIOUS; Pop Notes

Magazine article The New Yorker

DEADLY UNSERIOUS; Pop Notes

Article excerpt

Randy Newman once defined success as a songwriter as the absence of a big decline: it's not that you have to get better as you get older so much as that you have to avoid getting worse. By that standard, Loudon Wainwright III is a huge success. On "Strange Weirdos" (Concord), which is nominally the soundtrack to the film "Knocked Up" but pretty much plays like a new solo record, Wainwright is as good as he's ever been. Almost forty years into his recording career, he has not only retained his sharpness of wit but has also learned to cut with greater skill.

"Strange Weirdos" has ten new Wainwright songs, rounded out with a new version of his "Lullaby," from 1973, two evocative instrumentals by Joe Henry (who also served as co-producer), and a cover of Peter Blegvad's "Daughter." The opener, "Grey in L.A.," is a jaunty ode in which Wainwright tweaks the city for its oppressive good weather, name-drops the eco-warrior Laurie David and the uber-producer Brad Grey, and adds just enough resignation and regret to counter his (considerable) cleverness. But it's "You Can't Fail Me Now," the second song, that gives some idea of the album's depth of field. …

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