Willie Nile: World War Willie

Willie Nile is part of dying breed of rockers and demonstrates once more how much we and rock 'n' roll need him around.

Willie Nile

World War Willie

Label: Virtual
US Release Date: 2016-04-01
UK Release Date: 2016-04-01

Coming just two years after If I Was a River, Willie Nile continues his late career renaissance with a series of no-nonsense cuts that are consistently better than they really have a right to be. Sure, Nile will borrow a move here or a whoop there but that’s what rock 'n' roll has always been about and when Nile steals he steals bigger and better than you can imagine. And what is true Willie, what is unmistakably his own, his ability to make believers out of us all, no matter the story he’s telling, no matter the song he’s singing.

The best example is “Trouble Down in Diamond Town”, a cinematic track that stands up there with the best balladeering of Springsteen and calls to mind the small town frustrations chronicled in David & David’s mid-'80s classic “Boomtown”. At the end of the song, you don’t know whether you’ve just sat through a single episode or an entire season of some heartwrenching television series or have been gripping the pages of a well-worn novel. That’s Nile in a nutshell but it isn’t all that he does.

He’ll take you on a trip down the means streets of suburbia to introduce you to a character who’s become more prevalent in the last few years (“Grandpa Rocks”) over a setting that calls to mind the Romantics. He’ll make you laugh there and in “Citibank Nile”. But just as often and maybe even more so he can make you cry and think. Witness the love story behind “Runaway Girl” (here come those Dylan comparisons again) or the haunting, tear-inspiring “When Levon Sings”. Eac of the details in that tune, by the way, is true although many have said it before Nile brought it to our attention no one has been able to say it the way he did. Elsewhere, “Beautiful You” and “World War Willie” continue the traditions he established more than 30 years ago now.

They don’t make rockers like Nile anymore and there are only a few of these guys left. Nile, Peter Wolf and a handful of others are there waiting for a younger generation to discover them and embrace them and see once and for all how truth speaks through rock 'n' roll. Sure, someone will make the argument that Bruce has been doing that just fine but the Boss doesn’t have the same rough edges, doesn’t feel like a character you just met down at the corner bar or corner garage even though he sings about ‘em enough.

Nile didn’t have to bring Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” to the part but the fact is that Reed, too, is a kind that is now forever gone, a type that rock ‘n’ roll created and that rock ‘n’ roll ultimately took away. Nile is now nearly 70 and although there are indications that he’s not slowing down, we shouldn’t be slow to get out and see him in the live arena -- a place he’s known to take what he does best to its logical extreme. Buying and absorbing the records won’t hurt, of course. In fact, they’ll make so much about life on this big rock all the more tolerable. God bless Willie Nile and God bless rock ‘n’ roll.





By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.


Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.


L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.


Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.


Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.


Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.


West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".


PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".


Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.


Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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