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November 12th, 2013 ·

Viola Tada

I See Hawks in L.A.
Mystery Drug
Western Seeds

For all the references to Gram Parsons these guys get—and for all the references to Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt they should get—I gotta put I See Hawks on this seventh album somewhere closer to Terry Allen or Warren Zevon. Hawks are literary, even though they use small words—actually cuz they use small words—and they’re at their best when they put pedal steel to short stories or sometimes just a few irreducible lines. For one example: “Rock ‘N’ Roll Cymbal From The Seventies” is about what it means to love things that are gently used, and of course they truly spell it “symbol.” But my favorites are some of the slow and sad ones on an album that’s one power-pop song (Nick Lowe-y “Local Merchants”) and about half slow and sad ones. Like the title track with lyrics that make me think of plenty of parts from Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, or “If You Remind Me,” which reminds me of Roky Erickson’s damaged “Clear Night For Love” country rock era, in which he retreated to simpler softer music probably cuz he wanted a simpler softer life. And my very favorite is “We Could All Be In Laughlin Tonight,” with the funny-but-not-funny lines about how much the Skynyrd tribute gig pays and the closer “pay the money and turn off the light / jump off the cliff and turn right.” The Hawks song that will get me forever is “Turn That Airplane Around,” and “Laughlin” isn’t that—who could handle two of those? But in “Laughlin” there’s that same sense of life and its limits, and how it feels when you feel those limits getting closer. That’s what I hear from Zevon and Allen, that’s what I read in Charles Portis, and what I think I See Hawks sees, too.
Chris Ziegler