Billy Bob Thornton: The Edge of the World

tt clinkscales

Billy Bob Thornton

The Edge of the World

Label: Sanctuary
US Release Date: 2003-09-23
UK Release Date: Available as import

What began for Billy Bob Thornton as a loving exercise in alternative country has descended into twangy rock and roll gestures mixed with the occasional display of horny affection from a suitor who has lost that loving feeling. The Edge of the World is Thornton's second musical effort following Private Radio and with The Edge, Thornton has joined his Bandits co-star Bruce Willis in an unabashed love of clichés. Unfortunately, Thornton needs to cut loose and shamelessly enjoy himself as much as the Moonlighting wannabe soul man.

Song after song traffics in such straightforward rhythms this easily could have sprung from the garage studio of any lonely, self-taught diehard with a Radio Shack charge card and a copy of Happy Traum's The Guitarist's Picture Chords. And, on top of that, The End of the World lacks compelling stories, which most would imagine a character actor of Thornton's caliber would be able to access instinctively. There's no way to convince anyone that all of the hard work and creativity went into crafting song titles like "Everybody Lies", "The Desperate One", and "Pieces of a Man". After creating such finely detailed voices in the Oscar winning screenplay for Sling Blade, Thornton would seem to be a natural downtrodden troubadour alongside David Baerwald or Robbie Robertson who transform the seedy Los Angeles underbelly and the Native American dreamscapes, respectively, into feverish, desperate lands.

Despite his relaxed, laconic delivery, most of the lyrics feel far less natural in his half-sung/half-spoken style than in his truly memorable onscreen performances. The uninspired lyrics --- which show the strain of Thornton's efforts to have each line end in rhyme and emerge enclosed in quotation marks that fail to make them more distinct --- rarely seem to belong to this particular character he's created on disc.

This is not to say there are brief glimpses into the musical heart beating in Thornton's chest. The starkly delicate beauty of the guitar intro on "God" is a message exhumed from a bluesy Southern time capsule or a lost soundtrack to a forgotten David Lynch project. Sadly, the track suffers from Thornton's tedious spoken word address to God or more likely one of his lovers/wives.

The inspired humor of "Do God Wop", which appropriates the surreal tone and musicality of Frank Zappa, is the only track that seems to contain even a hint of Thornton's deadpan spirit. It begins with a swirling instrumental duel of trippy guitars, organ trills, and jazzy Ginger Baker-ish drumming before stopping on a dime and nodding off into another talk with God backed by a demented bunch of doo-wopers. There isn't an ounce of reverence in this dialogue with the Man upstairs and there's a sense that He and Thornton are a couple of geeky teenage losers affectionately teasing each other.

More such blasphemous fun might have really resulted in a journey closer to the edge or at least the outer extremities of the mind of Billy Bob Thornton. It would have been nice if by the end of the disc, I felt like I knew something more about the man than the tabloid headlines of his life and that he can afford to release a collection of neat and clean demos. Next time, maybe he'll give us a glimpse into his dirty little world.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.