Aging punk makes great country songs

Eddie Spaghetti
The Value of Nothing (Bloodshot Records, 2013)
Produced by Jesse Dayton

Reviewed by Blake Morneau

Has modern radio ruined the very idea of country music for you? Are you put off by the stereotypical conservative undertones of modern country music? Do you like a fatalistic punk sensibility but prefer your musicians to deliver it with some laid-back, west coast affability? Do you like the music you listen to to be direct–straight, no chaser?

If you answered, “Yes,” to any or all of the above, then Eddie Spaghetti’s The Value of Nothing is for you!

On his fourth solo offering, Eddie Spaghetti, the front-man from Seattle rockers the Supersuckers, delivers up an unpretentious collection of songs that straddle the line between his punk and country roots. There’s a sort of restless resignation that runs through these songs as Spaghetti sings his world-weary tales of courage, hard-living laziness and, most poignantly, coming to terms with himself as he journeys through the aging process, getting close to the half-century mark.

Growing up in Tucson, Arizona, Spaghetti was surrounded by country music that he tried desperately to avoid, or at the least ignore. Rebelling heavily against the suffocating culture that country music provided, he got heavy into metal and punk music, eventually forming the seminal punk-metal hybrid, the Supersuckers. He couldn’t deny his roots and started stepping back into the waters of his past in 1993 with the Junkyard Dogs, a Supersuckers country side-project. Though they only released one full-length album, it reinvigorated another aspect of Spaghetti’s musical background and luckily for listeners, it’s a path he’s continued on since.

Spaghetti’s growly drawl bring a surprising humanity to slightly misanthropic tracks like “People Are Shit” and “Empty,” a song built around the defeated refrain, “I’m empty, got nothing inside/Totally blank and completely dry / I’m empty, take a look in my eyes / Don’t listen to me ‘cause it’s all lies.” To be able to tow a line of empathy without ever falling into pity with such self-indulgent wallowing is a wonderful trick that requires a certain lyrical honesty. It’s a quality that Spaghetti has in spades.

It’s not all doom and gloom on The Value of Nothing. Spaghetti gets downright happy singing about matrimonial love on “You Get To Be My Age,” going so far as to knowingly wink at the fact when he sings “It might sound kinda cheesy but I’m happy when you are happy too.” The winning slacker-anthem “Waste of Time” wittingly pokes at the lazy life of a disaffected stoner-sort over a raggedy country stomp to charming effect.

Eddie Spaghetti starts the last track of the album, the aching ballad to aging, “When I’m Gone,” with the declaration, “I’m in decline, on the backslide/decadent, degenerate, the worst you might ever find…” It’s a hard statement to believe after a record’s worth of strong, steady songwriting filled with piss and vinegar and it’s a statement I can say I hope isn’t true.

Blake Morneau is a lover of aural pleasure who has been writing about his passion for nearly two years. Follow him on Twitter @MusicRags