Streets of New York Label: Reincarnate Music
Hasn’t this record already been done? I know Springsteen did “Streets of Philadelphia” for the Tom Hanks movie, but I could’ve sworn there was an old Broadway musical called “Streets of New York.” Hasn’t Lou Reed or Dion already done this record, Bob Dylan at least? Regardless, Willie Nile comes off like a steely New Yorker (even though he ain’t) who’s packing a guitar case full of road-weary tales on his latest, Streets of New York. Bono calls it “a great album” and Little Steven adds “Willie’s so good I can’t believe he’s not from New Jersey!”
One thing is for sure, Nile isn’t walking any street here that hasn’t been previously strolled at least a thousand times. High energy anthems rule, loaded with juicy hooks and enough “na, na, na” melodies to make Casey Kasem wake up and take note. “Welcome to My Head” gets things going with ringing guitars and a chorus that recalls Alice Cooper in a good mood. “Welcome to my head, make yourself at home,” Nile cries out against an abundant background chorus and super-slick production. There are less-than-subtle influences everywhere, as the Replacements’ grit and garage-band noise are mimicked on “Asking Annie Out” and a page from the Pogues’ history is torn on the galloping Irish cut “The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square”. Nile pays more than a casual tribute to the Clash, dedicating a feisty double-time version of Eddy Grant’s “Police on My Back” to the late Joe Strummer. While Nile is a respectable song man in his own right, this is far and away the album’s highlight.
Streets of New York ends up sounding like a grown man’s diary, 14 separate stories of life, death, love and longing. From the extended acoustic shuffle “Back Home,” which is a dead ringer for Dylan’s “Tangled up in Blue”, to the piano ballad title track that closes this book, Nile drains his heart of every emotion. The music on these streets is neither groundbreaking nor vast, but what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in delivery.