Todd Snider’s never been the easiest artist to understand. Part insurgent, often askew, he’s always been unpredictable even when he’s supposedly on track. Lately though, he appears to have derailed entirely, resurfacing in the form of an alter ego named Elmo Buzz, a wannabe musician who singled out Snider as his object of scorn. How this plays out becomes the subject of Eastside Bulldog, an album built on rudimentary rock ‘n’ roll, the kind that originated in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but with lyrics that inform the various topics that command Buzz’s interest. There’s his harsh repute of the music biz (“Hey Pretty Boy”), his fascination with Hank Williams Jr. (“Bocephus”) and songs where the wackiness simply runs rampant (“37206,” “The Funky Tomato”). Yet for all Elmo/Todd’s entreaties (“Are You With Me,” “Enough Is Enough”), it’s still hard to cut through the craziness. Ultimately, Eastside Bulldog differs from any other Snider album to date, not only due to its vintage sound, but also because Snider allows himself to be fully absorbed in his make-believe persona. While the music holds to a certain sway, the mimicry quickly turns to parody, and any trace of nuance is rapidly burned away. Snider, always the supreme satirist, attempts to make the most out of binging in the basics, but the ultimate result is a kind of one dimensional narrative that overplays the punch line and attempts to sustain itself sans a follow-up. Consequently, if Eastside Bulldog comes across as a toss-off of an effort, there’s good reason. Supposedly Snider was given free reign in the studio but didn’t have any material at the ready. As a result, he improvised on the sport, opting to use spontaneity as his skill set. That works to a point, making for an album that hangs on a single hook but lacks the bait to draw much more.
Eastside Bulldog by Todd Snider