Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)

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Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)
Studio album by Patterson Hood
Released June 23, 2009 (2009-06-23)
Recorded Chase Park Transduction Studios in Athens, Georgia in 2005[1]
Genre Alternative country
Length 52:39
Label Ruth St. Records, ATO Records
Producer Patterson Hood, David Barbe
Patterson Hood chronology
Killers and Stars
(2004)
Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)
(2009)
Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
(2012)

Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) is the second solo album by Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood. The album's songs were written from 1994 to 2004, and recording began in early 2005 in Athens, Georgia. Murdering Oscar was released on June 23, 2009 on Hood's own label, Ruth St. Records, as well as on ATO Records. The music on the album consists of noisy guitar chords and reverb on some tracks, although some feature the use of piano as well. The album's lyrics address topics that affected Hood around the time Murdering Oscar '​s songs were written, such as the birth of his child and his success with the Drive-By Truckers.

The album received mainly favorable reviews from critics, who praised it for being optimistic and mature in its handling of both positive and negative themes. Critics also commended the album for addressing these themes in a compassionate and optimistic manner, and for being exceptionally personal compared to his previous work with the Drive-By Truckers. Murdering Oscar peaked at #153 on the Billboard 200 Chart.

Background and recording[edit]

Half of the album's songs were written when Hood moved to Athens, GA in 1994, before the Drive-By Truckers were established[2] and soon after his previous band, Adam's House Cat, broke up.[3] The other half were written in 2004, shortly after Hood's child was born.[4] However, the songs weren't recorded until 2005.[5] Most of the instruments on Murdering Oscar were played by David Barbe, Will Johnson, and Scott Danboum, who had previously performed with the Truckers as sidemen (as well as Hood's father David Hood).[5]

Jewly Hight compared Murdering Oscar to Chinese Democracy, writing that while Axl Rose "obsessively retooled Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy in 14 studios over 13 years, all the while stringing along the public with empty promises of a finished album," Hood handled his long-in-the-making album rather differently—namely, by leaving the album essentially unchanged from its recording in 2005 to its release four years later.[6] Hood has attributed this delay between the songs' recording in 2005 and Murdering's release four years later to, in his words, "record industry bullshit."[7]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The songs on the album were influenced by Hood's new marriage, the birth of Hood's child, and the success of the Drive-By Truckers.[8] Steve LaBate described Murdering Oscar '​s music as "a little of everything Hood’s done so far, plus a few dashes of discovery."[4] Stuart Henderson, writing in PopMatters, described its music as "grinding three-or-four chord garage rock, [and] drive-heavy reverb," and its lyrics as "throaty storytelling, a hefty dose of gallows humour, and a few slow-burning excursions into some poor schlub’s bleak night."[5]

"Murdering Oscar" tells a tale of a "morally elastic hitman" inspired by the Woody Allen film Crimes and Misdemeanors.[8][9] "Pollyanna," the oldest song on the album, blends "filthy guitars" and "lucid, hopeful piano".[4] "Pride of the Yankees" is a "bleak, uncharacteristic piano waltz."[4] Hood wrote the song "I Understand Now" about "the value of growing up and starting to comprehend advice he heard long ago."[10] The sarcastic "Screwtopia" is "a deadpan swipe at suburban emptiness."[4] The optimistic "Granddaddy" is about having a child and growing old.[4][11] "Belvedere" is a bad-date song about "a creepy guy", according to Hood.[12] "The Range War" is a cover of a Todd Rundgren song.[8] "She's a Little Randy" finds Hood in a silly mood.[8] "Foolish Young Bastard" is "a put-down aimed at an old manager."[8] "Heavy and Hanging" was written in response to Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994.[8] "Walking Around Sense" is addressed to the daughter of a dysfunctional rock star.[9] "Back of a Bible" is about a man who writes a love song on the back page of a Bible.[10]

Reception[edit]

The album received mostly favorable reviews from critics when it was released, with a Metacritic score of 80/100.[13] Several critics described Murdering Oscar '​s music as more intimate and personal than Hood's previous work.[10][14] Jon Pareles also noted that Hood's music on Murdering Oscar discusses both depressing topics, such as murder and suicide, as well as more positive ones such as "family and continuity" on "I Understand Now".[14] Joshua Klein wrote that Hood was "surprisingly sanguine, even mature" in the way he addressed both positive and negative topics on the album,[8] and Mark Deming wrote that the album's songs were "dark but compassionate character studies."[9] Greg Kot gave Murdering Oscar three stars out of four and wrote that it "maintains a certain raw immediacy;"[15] similarly, Deming wrote that Murdering Oscar "consistently cuts closer to the bone" than Hood's debut solo album Killers and Stars.[9] An anomalously negative review came from Jesse Cataldo, who wrote in Slant that the album had "little variation and even less bite".[16]

Different critics made different comparisons between the album and the work Hood did with the Drive-By Truckers: Ken Tucker wrote that "Where the music made by the Drive-By Truckers can expand to epic proportions without becoming overblown, Hood's solo songs are smaller scale, more intimate",[10] while PopMatters' Stuart Henderson wrote that "None of the songs here would be out of place on either of the last two Truckers albums", and that "The sound, then, remains the same, but just a little less the same."[5] Henderson also argued that the music of Murdering Oscar discusses variations on the story of "the lonely, forgotten everyman", which he called one of Hood's favorite themes.[5] Cataldo criticized the album for being far inferior to Hood's work with the Truckers, saying that on Murdering Oscar, "Hood falters, resulting in an uninterrupted stream of watery drivel that drifts by much too slowly." He attributed this in part to the absence of the Truckers' other songwriter, Mike Cooley.[16]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (80%)[13]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[9]
The AV Club (A-)[17]
Robert Christgau (A-)[11]
Paste (82%)[4]
Pitchfork Media (7.6/10)[8]
Billboard (73%)[2]
Uncut 4/10 stars[3]
PopMatters 8/10 stars[5]

Accolades and commercial performance[edit]

The album was ranked #330 on the 2009 Pazz & Jop,[18] and #39 on Robert Christgau's 2009 "Dean's List".[19]

Murdering Oscar peaked at #153 on the Billboard 200 on July 11, 2009.[20][21]

Track listing[edit]

  1. Murdering Oscar
  2. Pollyanna
  3. Pride of the Yankees
  4. I Understand Now
  5. Screwtopia
  6. Granddaddy
  7. Belvedere
  8. The Range War
  9. She's a Little Randy [from Randy and the Mob]
  10. Foolish Young Bastard
  11. Heavy and Hanging
  12. Walking Around Sense
  13. Back of a Bible

Personnel[edit]

Musicians[edit]

Production[edit]

  • David Barbe - producer, engineer, mixing.
  • Patterson Hood - producer, liner notes.
  • Glenn Schick - mastering.
  • Lilla Hood - art direction.
  • Wes Freed - artwork.
  • Sean Fine, Wendy Van Pelt - photography.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Making of Murdering Oscar (and other love songs)
  2. ^ a b "Patterson Hood, "Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)"". Billboard. 7 July 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Hughes, Rob. "Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) Review". Uncut. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g LaBate, Steve (25 June 2009). "Patterson Hood: Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)". Paste. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Henderson, Stuart (21 June 2009). "Patterson Hood: Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)". PopMatters. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Hight, Jewly (18 June 2009). "Patterson Hood's solo album Murdering Oscar is a striking blast from the past". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Powell, Austin (24 September 2010). "Murdering Oscar". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Klein, Joshua (22 June 2009). "Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)". Pitchfork. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Deming, Mark. "Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d Tucker, Ken (30 June 2009). "Patterson Hood: Drive-By Boss Does 'Murder'". NPR. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  11. ^ a b CG: Patterson Hood
  12. ^ McKenna, Dave (26 June 2009). "Patterson Hood: Live Last Night". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Murdering Oscar Reviews
  14. ^ a b Pareles, Jon (21 June 2009). "New CDs". New York Times. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Kot, Greg (23 June 2009). "Patterson Hood, "Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)" *** (out of 4)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Cataldo, Jesse (15 June 2009). "Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)". Slant. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  17. ^ Hyden, Steven (30 June 2009). "Patterson Hood: Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)". The AV Club. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  18. ^ "Albums — All Votes". Village Voice. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert. "2009: Dean's List". Robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "Patterson Hood- Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "The Billboard 200". Billboard. 11 July 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2014.