This is Ian's first studio album in six years since 2001's Rant. Eagerly anticipated by fans, musically and lyrically it has much in common with its predecessor. Those familiar with Rant will immediately feel comfortable with this album. Whereas before he was lamenting what he sees as the decline of the land of his birth, this time he is commenting on his adopted homeland.
This reviewer always finds it takes a few listens to "get" an IH album, and this is no exception. There appears to be little or no filler, and there's a healthy mix of strong, solid rockers and quieter, slower material. Much of the material has a familiar feel - a riff here, a bridge there, very much in the IH style where he (perhaps subconciously) leans on his own earlier material.
There are some astonishingly good tracks on here. Words (Big Mouth) opens things up nicely where Ian apologises to a loved one for mouthing off the night before, while Ian yearns for a earlier, simpler world in When The World Was Round. Brainwashed is a great rocker, aimed squarely at the brand-name materialism society seems to be obsessed with today. Shrunken Heads is a great track, with a distinct Springsteen-ish touch to it - close your eyes and it's easy to imagine the E-Street Band accompanying Ian on this one.
In Soul Of America he rails against the current crop of leaders who don't compare to Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin... at the same time as noting how corrupt the whole government machine has become ("feathering their nests while they're rallying the troops..."). How's Your House is a fun, piano-drenched rocker lamenting the lack of help for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Stretch (another guitar-led rocker) sees Ian taking aim at some of the ne'er-do-wells he grew up with, perhaps noting that things could easily have turned out so very differently.
It will be interesting to see how much of this material come across live (I suspect 'very well'). Initial copies of this album come with a 3-track bonus CD - for once the "limited edition" tag is accurate, as bonus-less versions are already in the shops. The tracks are as strong as on the main album (ie definitely not demo tracks). Your Eyes in particular would not have been out of place on the main album, while Wasted has more than a touch of Ian's own God (Take One) about it. At about 50 minutes the album is the right length and the production is very clean.
Overall, a good album that rewards repeated listening. Initially I thought "maybe a notch or two down on his very best" but you know, I'm gonna change my mind. The more I listen to this album the more it grows on me. I'm now firmly convinced this is one of his very best, up there with Alien Boy and Schizophrenic. Now where's that repeat button on the CD player...Adrian Perkins