The people who write for Noise Pollution are nothing but passionate when it comes to music. That’s why we spend so much of our own time working on reviews. We figured that every now and then, we might just have two or three different writers share their opinions of the one album. With that, you the reader, may just get a greater picture of the album in question. So while it might be a lengthier read than normal, check out two reviews of the latest Jimmy Barnes Record.
With an artist like Jimmy Barnes, you are guaranteed reliability. Whether he’s working with Cold Chisel, releasing covers albums, or in the case of My Criminal Record, an original solo record, you will hear music of the highest quality. It’s exactly because of this, that he has become the household name that he is.
For My Criminal Record, Barnsey gets deeply personal, and thoroughly engaging as he literally puts together an album that tells the important elements of his life’s story. It’s a story that we’ve all become very familiar with over the last few years, with his books, and the subsequent movie based on said books becoming hugely successful.
The album itself, may just be the best of his entire solo career, and that is entirely because of how relatable the songs are. Opening with the bluesy shuffle of the title track, Barnsey is sounding as good, if not better than ever. Continuing on through the brilliant Shutting Down Our Town, we hear the country infused tale of the Holden plant shutting down, and the repercussions it had on a family, and indeed an entire town.
I’m In A Bad Mood might just be the highlight of the album in my opinion. It’s got a huge sound, and extremely relatable lyrics. Stolen Car (The Roads on Fire Part 1) features some excellent guitar, and great piano accents. It’s a moody song, but still seems upbeat at the same time.
Southern infused guitars are the focal point of My Demon (God Help Me), another deeply personal tale, exploring the demons that Jimmy has ran from until recently. Next up is a cover of Working Class Hero. It’s a well placed cover, that remains faithful to the original, and a very suitable companion piece to the huge anthem that is Working Class Man.
Belvedere and Cigarettes is a weathered and mature Barnsey, showcasing the huge strong voice that he is known for. I Won’t Let You Down heads back in to country rock territory, and coupled with Stargazer, serve to bring the pace of the album back a step or two, as they both traverse ballad territory.
Money and Class picks it back up a notch with the stomping rhythm, and buzzsaw guitar, while Stolen Car (The Worlds on Fire Part 2) picks up perfectly where part 1 left us off. If Time is On My Side is Jimmy Barnes at his reflective best, and to close out the album Tougher Than The Rest puts a great capper on everything that came before. Personally, I would have liked to end on a rockier note, but this works.
Barnsey is in fine form here, and I hope that it’s sooner than a decade before his next solo album of original material.
Review by Shayne McGowan
Longevity in anything takes commitment, resilience, passion and diligence. To achieve longevity in music, I imagine that an artist has to embrace the present to remain relevant, without changing their work too much so as to not disenfranchise early fans, but to be diverse enough to attract new folks. It sounds harder than being in the United Nations…
Jimmy Barnes has been around for a very long time. I have “For the Working Class Man” on CD in our collection and played it more times than I care to imagine. It is this type of work that personifies him – when he is being himself and telling stories that are relevant to us all. We are the people that he is singing about, or we know the person he is singing about.
On “My Criminal Record” 6 of the 13 tracks involved Cold Chisel’s Don Walker. Troy Cassar Daley, Chris Cheney (The Living End) and Diesel also chipped in, along with other friends of Jimmy Barnes. The 13 songs total an hour in duration.
“My Criminal Record” kicks things off with blues tones and expert percussion. It’s about broken homes and Dad always being able to find a drink. Then, there’s THAT voice. You quickly connect with Jimmy Barnes and hang on every word. The backing singers and harmonies are exceptional.
“Shutting Down our Town” is a familiar sound with the clever blues piano weaving its way through the track. It’s about the collapse of industry in the suburbs and the looming threat of poverty. This story resonates across our land. I really enjoyed some subtle percussion that mimicked industry. A great guitar solo features.
“I’m in a Bad Mood” had me looking forward to what was in store, but it somewhat surprised me. It’s self-depreciating, where the person is the architect of their own frustration. It’s cleverly written and this is another hallmark of this album – clever lyrics.
“Stolen Car (The Road of Fire) Part 1” is a slower track that is full of analogies to which we can relate – that life is a stolen car, it’s out of control, my motor is howling and is out of tune. This track resurfaces later in the album as well as Part 2.
“My Demon (God Help Me)” opens with steel and slide guitars that are used well as anchors through the track. As the track unfolds, it becomes clear that the demon lies within the person. Jimmy’s vocals and the arrangement of the instruments are well used, mirroring a resolute trudge through life.
“Working Class Hero” is a John Lennon song and this is performed using techniques and instruments that are period correct. It’s a song that is Jimmy Barnes through and through.
“Belvedere and Cigarettes” opens in honky tonk fashion, with Jimmy again connecting with the listener. Great guitar work shines through. “I Won’t Let You Down” is Barnsey at his story telling best. This song is a Saturday Night Special and the guitars bleed into each other. It’s a song about being strong in love.
“Stargazer” slows the pace a lot, showcasing Jimmy’s versatility. However, I didn’t bond with this track. “Money and Class” uses distorted guitar riffs to change the feel of the album. It’s about frustrations connected to money. Like the last track, it didn’t connect with me like the other tracks.
“If Time is on My Side” is a track that really grabbed me. It’s a foot tapping track about self-destruction and embracing opportunity.
“Tougher than the Rest” is a Bruce Springsteen song that may well have been written for Jimmy. It finishes the album strongly and is a comfortable cruise. It’s another track about being strong in love and the two last tracks of the album augment each other, wrapping up proceedings strongly.
I really enjoyed the musical elements of this album. The guitars, particularly the solos, are terrific and the use of piano, in all its forms, adds much richness and depth. The lyrics are compelling prose and have much to say.
This is also an album of masterfully controlled vocals – they are rich and honest. Jimmy’s voice is immediately recognisable and he connects with the listener.
It’s an album of stories, straight from the heart and probably, very close to home, for Jimmy and for us.
It’s time well spent together.
Review by Greg Noble