Sound & Fury
Sturgill Simpson’s last album, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth was a soulful, expansive and personal welcome-letter to his infant son. It was his first major step away from the traditional worlds of country and alt-country and showed he was someone prepared, and able, to follow his muse and imagination, with little time for being pigeon-holed into one genre.
With a menacing muscle car and apocalyptic explosion on its cover, Sound & Fury takes a blowtorch to preconceived expectations the industry and many of his fans might have had about the kind of music Sturgill Simpson should be making. These ten songs are brash technicolor statements of intent. Full synth glam disco boogie, like 80s-era ZZ Top jamming sleazy Las Vegas funk-rock songs with Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) and Joe Satriani. It doesn’t always work but when it does it’s thrillingly indulgent akin to a guilty pleasure. It’s the soundtrack to a Netflix animated film Simpson co-wrote and produced, but that’s irrelevant to understanding and enjoying this album.
‘A Good Look’ is one of the many highlights with its burbling breakneck rhythm and incredible bass playing. ’Mercury In Retrograde’ is another gem, at its heart it’s pure country music, filtered through synth pop and William Onyeabor. It takes an unfiltered swing at the industry leeches and vultures looking to cash-in on Simpson’s success. Elsewhere he rails against the crass consumerism of the modern world, the obsession with image over substance (‘A Good Look’), making the decision to not play the industry game (‘Make Art Not Friends’, ‘All Said And Done’) and keeping his eyes on the prize of charting his own music course and being recognised for it on the coruscating, The Jesus and Mary Chain wall of distortion that is ‘The Fastest Horse In Town’.
Buried beneath the neon and fireworks Simpson is still writing country songs, you can hear it in his delivery and cadence, you can hear the outlaw spirit in his kicking against the pricks lyrics. This time around he’s chosen to dress it differently, and defiantly so. He’s chosen a fitting sonic palette to match the intensity and backbone of these songs and in that sense Sound & Fury is a resounding success.