John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews

John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews
The deluxe reissue of the heartland songwriter’s 1985 album reinforces its stature as the platonic ideal of a traditional American rock’n’roll record: It is direct, unfussy, and unpretentious.

Scarecrow captures the moment when John Cougar Mellencamp, the rocker who once declared “Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did,” came to the conclusion, “You’ve Gotta Stand for Somethin’.” Mellencamp decided his somethin’ was the people who lived, loved, and lost in the small towns scattered across the United States, the Americans suffering from the suffocating consequences of the Reagan Revolution creeping across the country in the mid-1980s.

Smalltown America is a milieu that treated John Mellencamp well in the past, providing the backdrop for both the rousing “Jack & Diane” and the biting “Pink Houses,” a pair of hits whose popularity helped obscure the grim cynicism lingering at their core. A fatalist by nature, Mellencamp chose to battle his instincts when composing the songs for 1985’s Scarecrow, tempering his Midwestern gloom with notes of inspiration and solidarity. Take “Lonely Ol’ Night,” a cathartic rocker that served as the album’s first single: After singing it’s “a sad, sad, sad, sad feelin’ when you’re livin’ on those in-betweens,” he offers an offhand reassurance “but it’s OK,” deflating pitch black loneliness lurking in the song’s verses. Similarly, after offering a litany of anxieties on “Rumbleseat,” he ends the song on a note of self-help triumphalism that seems at odds with the roiling paranoia delivered in the previous stanzas.

All this is a deliberate choice, part of Mellencamp positioning himself as an advocate for the everyday American on Scarecrow. He was fighting for their hopes and dreams, mourning the disappearing downtown drags, and preserving the memories of the good times. There are storm clouds gathering on the horizon, peeking through on the deceptively bouncy “The Face of the Nation” and swirling on the ominous opener “Rain on the Scarecrow,” a vivid portrait of the wreckage left behind when all the farms in a town shut down. Mellencamp took this issue to heart, organizing the Farm Aid charity with Willie Nelson and Neil Young just after completing Scarecrow. The near-simultaneous release of the album and the staging of the concert created an illusion that Scarecrow had a political bent, which isn’t quite true. Save the pointed “Rain on the Scarecrow,” Mellencamp avoids antagonistic politics—despite its stirring title, “You’ve Got to Stand for Somethin’” is a stroll down Boomer memory lane that functions as a proto-“We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Throughout the album, he traffics in stories and nostalgia, painting a picture of a middle America so romantic that it could’ve served as the soundtrack for a Reagan campaign advertisement if it wasn’t for the pugnacious presentation of these songs.

Mellencamp married his vignettes of middle America with the music he associated with the heartland: the hit singles pumping on the AM airwaves throughout the 1960s. As much as he treated Bob Dylan as his spiritual guide, Mellencamp didn’t rely on earnest folk-rock for Scarecrow, nor did he indulge in baroque pop or trippy journeys to the center of your mind. He concentrated on the ravers that served as a soundtrack at frat parties, shindigs, and clambakes, the kind of hits he celebrates on “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to 60s Rock).” Mellencamp even put his longtime backing band in a boot camp of sorts, marching them through a hundred oldies prior to cutting a note of his new songs. Some of those cover versions show up on the 2022 deluxe edition of Scarecrow. Mellencamp croons sweetly on an acoustic revision of the Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk” and his band approximates a good JB’s groove on their take on James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” two tracks among the 11 pleasant, enjoyable tunes on the reissue’s bonus CD. More importantly, that woodshedding is felt within the marrow of Scarecrow. Larry Crane and Mike Wanchic intertwine to make one massive guitar roar while drummer Kenny Aronoff plays like a Charlie Watts with no patience for jazz. It’s impassioned, defiant rock’n’roll that serves as a retort to stylish, synthesized glamor being peddled by MTV in the mid-1980s.

Mellencamp was hardly the only rocker to recoil from the glossier sounds of the 1980s. College rock radio overflowed with cowpunks and Paisley Underground revivalists, not to mention the Byrdsian jangle of R.E.M. and their legion of disciples. The connection did not go unnoticed on the part of those seminal college rockers. R.E.M. would hire producer Don Gehman in the wake of his work on Scarecrow, recording their 1986 album Lifes Rich Pageant in Mellencamp’s studio. Peter Buck explained at the time, “I just like the sound of his records… the drum sound and the way the guitars intermesh. It’s a real good rock’n’roll sound without being overly slick.”

Buck’s simple assessment of Scarecrow is key to its endurance: The thing just leaps out of the speakers. The cool, natural efficiency of Mellencamp’s band combined with Gehman’s clean, muscular production adds up to a platonic ideal of a rock’n’roll record: It’s direct, unfussy, and unpretentious, barreling forward on the strength of a mammoth backbeat. Such simple pleasures are the core virtue of Scarecrow. Mellencamp’s growing social consciousness places him at the precipice of enlightenment yet he still can’t resist all of his instincts to create a joyful noise.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 21, 2022 Rating: 5


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