Web Exclusive! Review of the Day ? The Ike Reilly Assassination

The Ike Reilly Assassination
We Belong to the Staggering Evening

Rock Ridge Music (RKM2-61115)

Grade: ****

Straight-up, good ol’-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll is the best cure for self-absorbed melancholia. Instead of prescribing anti-depressants in the form of pills, the mental health establishment might want to start handing out copies of the Ike Reilly Assassination’s We Belong to the Staggering Evening to patients who can’t cope with real life.

Having kicked around with long-forgotten local combos like Celtic rockers The Drovers, the Eisenhowers and punk-rock agitators Community 9, the black sheep of Libertyville, Ill., retired from music in the ’90s and worked odd jobs. Talk about lost time.

Nine years afterward, Reilly’s cocksure songwriting caught the ear of one of the Dust Brothers via a demo tape. And just like that, Reilly was back in the game, and the music world was better for it.

Champion of the working man, a reformed drug abuser, an unapologetic reprobate with no hope of salvation ? Ike Reilly is all of these things. Or, at least, he is on We Belong to the Staggering Evening, an album that asks the question: is Reilly the new Bob Dylan or Jerry Lee Lewis?

“Fish Plant Uprising,” which features the great line, “Who says you can’t toss a fish at the President?” is a piano-pounding rave-up that strikes a blow for unionism in America and hits the ivories like The Killer.

But, Reilly’s hilarious storytelling ? he winds up in the clink and stinks of fish ? and razor-sharp wit recalls Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

Fuzzy garage-rock fury (“I Hear the Train), heartfelt acoustic folk (“Broken Parakeet Blues”), harmonica-infused, joint-is-jumping blues (“Let’s Get Friendly”), vaudevillian shuffles (“Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights”) and menacing, distorted noir-ish blues (“It’s Hard To Make Love to an American”) all reside in We Belong to the Staggering Evening’s halfway house of shady, broken-down characters and angry loners.

Reilly doesn’t sugarcoat anything in his lyrics. He exposes hypocrites, cheaters and liars, spews venom and does the “crotchety old man drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon” bit a little too well, but he couches all of it in good humor and words that suggest there’s some warmth in that black heart of his.

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