CD Review of Insides Out by Jordan Zevon
Recommended if you like
Elvis Costello, Jon Brion, Warren Zevon
Label
New West/Ammal
Jordan Zevon: Insides Out

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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T
he idea of an album from Warren Zevon’s son might provoke groans and/or guffaws from your inner cynic, but don’t be so quick to dismiss Insides Out – he isn’t some punk kid looking for a free ride on his famous dad’s coattails.

Jordan Zevon isn’t a kid at all, actually; he’ll turn 40 next year, and he’s been knocking around the club circuit for years, first as a drummer for a series of local acts with “The” in front of their names (the New Originals, the Graduates, the Imposters), and more recently as a self-made solo artist (Zevon’s debut self-titled EP was released on his own label in 2005). Perhaps more importantly to skeptical fans of the dearly departed elder Zevon, Jordan doesn’t really sound much like his dad; aside from an undeniable vocal similarity, this particular apple seems to have taken care to make sure he fell in a separate orchard.

What this means, musically speaking, is that Zevon’s songs tend to sound more like they came from Andy Partridge’s Chalkhills than the Laurel Canyon streets his dad prowled – but where the power-pop pose often comes across as an artificially sweetened affectation, Zevon wears it like a perfectly knotted skinny tie. Insides Out doesn’t have an ounce of flab; the songs layer hooks on top of hooks, and the arrangements are laced with beefed-up guitars and knotted organ runs. Listeners desperately searching for familial similarities will notice that Jordan inherited his dad’s jaundiced lyrical eye, but where Warren’s observations were often shot through with world-weariness (something driven home here on Jordan’s cover of an unreleased Warren B-side, “Studebaker”), Jordan tends to take more of a subtly humorous approach.

If he’d come up 20 years ago, Zevon would surely have been groomed for Next Big Thing status, given an MTV makeover, and sent on a package tour with Julian Lennon; much as that scenario might have benefited his short-term sales and profile – and prevented Zevon from falling under the wing of longtime family advocate and pathological label-founder Danny Goldberg – it’s unquestionably to Jordan’s benefit that he took the long way around to his debut. It’s got to be daunting to try and follow in the footsteps of a songwriter as critically beloved as Warren Zevon, but Jordan doesn’t sound the least bit tentative here. This certainly has a lot to do with the fact that he’s setting out on a very different path, but still – there isn’t a review of this record that isn’t going to mention his dad, if only for context, and that puts a lot of pressure on any debut artist.

On the other hand, pressure has a tendency to create gems, and Insides Out is no exception. Jordan Zevon deserves the chance to establish himself outside his father’s shadow – and with another album or two of songs like these, he may very well get it.

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