There’s a line here in the last song on “Weeds,” where Jeb Barry sings, “I’m thinking of leaving the lights on until this year ends,” but unlike Counting Crows on “A Long December” all those years ago, there’s no promise here that this year will be better than the last.
“Weeds” is not that record.
It starts with “Chelsea Off My Mind.” Now, I’m still trying to forget we were 1-0 up there with a minute left, but I suspect this isn’t that. Rather when Barry sings: “[she left]. Just to make sure I knew all of my mistakes. “You can see I was blind; I’m just a messed up guy,” he nails the beauty of this album, of his writing.
He’s at it again on the title track, talking of “Weeds” where we hide. And on this album, he’s always looking to escape, but “Southern Drawl In Heaven” sees him coming back, wanting to find his roots again.
This is a pandemic record, but “Generation Lockdown” looks at the cost, the fear, and the confusion of the plague of school shootings in the US. “We could stop it, but we don’t,” he notes acerbically, and you’re in no doubts as to his view – and he’s a teacher himself.
And “Covid Unit” underlines another of his thoughts, railing against the selfishness, the thoughtlessness, of those who didn’t follow the rules (hey Boris!), “Some folks think they’re so special. Don’t have to play by the rules,” is as telling as is true.
Barry is a wonderful storyteller. “James” deals with the loss of a friend, and your reaction to it: “Right now we’re just evaluating our own lives as James was dying.” It’s stunning and bleak. But tell me you don’t do the same?
The personal nature of these is absolutely shining through. “The War” simply must be true as it discusses his father’s reaction to his part in conflict.
Indeed, mortality seems to be at the heart of the writing here, with “Miss June” as beautiful as it is poignant. “Preacher” begins with someone’s last words, and “Memorial Day” notes regretfully that “once a year they put a flag on your grave, then walk away.”
“Baby Got Drunk” might sound like a party song, but this isn’t a party record. “Tequila shots went down like water,” they all sing. “Just like the vodka, rum, and whiskey. By the time the law finally caught her, she’d finished off that Listerine.”
Everywhere you look here, there are consequences and regret. “Twine” has the hook, “I’m barely holding this life together with twine,” and everything and everyone in these songs is but barely hanging on.”
And the very last line of the record, on that aforementioned last track, is its title: “All Girls Break Hearts.” You wouldn’t expect anything else here. This is bleak, but so is 2023. Good lord, have you watched the news? It’s the perfect accompaniment.
“Happy people have no stories,” noted Therapy? once. There are 13 wonderful ones here, so maybe they’re right.