PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Jackson Browne: Standing in the Breach

A strong, balanced album that finds the veteran singer/songwriter still fighting and still searching.


Jackson Browne

Standing in the Breach

Label: Inside Recordings
US Release Date: 2014-10-07
UK Release Date: 2014-10-06
Amazon
iTunes

The uber-troubadour. The archetypal sensitive singer/songwriter. The political firebrand and protest song torchbearer. In a career spanning over 40 years, Jackson Browne has been all these things and more. Standing in the Breach, Browne’s first collection of new material since 2008’s Time the Conqueror, has songs that touch all these bases, and even includes a composition that predates his first album. This is Jackson Browne in 2014: comfortable and secure enough with his art to revisit an old song, but not out of ideas yet. He's still fighting, and still searching.

And what about that old song: “The Birds of St. Marks”? A Byrds-inspired tune that was written when the 18-year-old Browne was playing guitar for Nico and involved with her romantically, it’s the lead-off track and the one that’s getting the most attention. For Browne, the choice to record it is unusual as he’s mostly ignored his very early songs -- the slew of widely bootlegged 1967 and 1971 unreleased demos, including a good 30-plus songs never put on album. Yet, solo tours over the last decade, where he took audience requests, seem to have given him an acceptance of some of the more obscure entries in his catalog (in fact, a piano version of “The Birds of St. Marks” was included on the live Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1).

He dips into the past in a different way on “Leaving Winslow”, a return to that town from “Take it Easy”, the big Eagles hit that Browne co-wrote. A desire to escape tugs at his sleeve, and he wants to disappear into the past to a simpler time when he was just standin’ on that corner in the small Arizona town. Emphasizing that longing for yesterday, the song is a '70s-style Southern California country rock song, an obvious, but welcome echo of Browne’s original For Everyman version of “Take It Easy”.

These two songs are a reckoning of sorts with the past. After all, we have to know where we’ve come from, both personally and as a people, to see where we’re going. And where are we going? Nowhere good on our current path, at least in Browne’s worldview. Though his commitment to exposing injustice and political and corporate corruption is still strong, at times it’s almost like he’s trying to convince himself as much as us that it’s all worth it: “It’s hard to keep track of what’s gone wrong / The covenant unravels and the news just rolls along / I could feel my memory letting go some two or three disasters ago” (“The Long Way Around”). He’s not ready to throw in the towel just yet, though. The title song is a rallying cry, almost a pep talk, using an earthquake (perhaps the 2010 Haiti earthquake of the striking album cover photo) and its aftermath as a loose metaphor for the state of the world and the sometimes blind but necessary hope needed to improve things.

This “battle for the future” is a common theme, with the centerpiece “If I Could Be Anywhere” highlighting his realization that when it comes down to it, living fully in the present is the most meaningful thing we can do. Our current actions are the prime determinant of whatever happens down the road: “If I could be anywhere and change things / It would have to be now”.

He ends the album with “Here”, a quiet closer and an old-style Jackson Browne song that could be from any point in his career. An easy flowing, sad song of love lost built on a descending picked acoustic guitar line and colored with Greg Leisz’ lap steel guitar, it’s a mellow way to end an album that’s one of his most balanced, strongest works.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.