Live From New Jersey
Here’s a question for you: does a guy with only two studio albums to his name — one of which wasn’t very good — really deserve a double disc live album? When you think about it, Yorn has virtually made his name by touring his ass off in the last few years, so perhaps it does make some sense. Recorded in 2003 at the Community Theatre in his hometown of Morristown, New Jersey, Live From New Jersey hits the highlights of Yorn’s acclaimed 2001 debut, Musicforthemorningafter, and attempts to rescue a few tracks from the inferior follow-up, Day I Forgot. As such, this should be more than enough to tide fans over until the next time Yorn goes on tour (probably next month, given his track record).
The record has better than average sound, and Yorn has a solid band backing him up. Those attributes go a long way to cover up the fact that Yorn is almost wholly lacking discernible charisma, as evidenced by his bored-sounding between-song banter: “Whassup Morristown? I probably know most of youse. My Mom’s here tonight, so I’ve got to keep it clean onstage.” A riveting storyteller he’s not. Fortunately, he let’s the music speak for itself.
Favorites from the first record, like “Strange Condition” and the ultra catchy “Closet,” are judiciously spaced throughout the set. “Life On A Chain” swings a bit more than the studio version and sounds well road-tested with a de rigueur audience participation section. The set-closing “Murray,” a tune about the father of Brian Wilson, is the highlight of the show. Unfortunately, “Black” has that already-dated, turn-of-the-21st-century alternative rock sound and one of Yorn’s most laconic vocal deliveries.
As for the Day I Forgot songs, the slide guitar-tinged “Pass Me By” is energetically performed, though it’s still missing a really great chorus to put it over the top. Introducing “Crystal Village,” Pete Yorn talks about ripping off Wilco’s “She’s A Jar.” It’s not in that league, but it’s not a bad song. The same can’t be said, however, of “Burrito.” “It’s a 7-11/Do you wanna take a walk outside/If you wanna burrito/You can have another bite of mine,” Yorn sings. It’s either a brilliant parody of a brooding modern rock song or one of Yorn’s lamest lyrics (I’m thinking the latter). And dull momentum killers like the acoustic ballad “All At Once” add nothing to the set.
Yorn dedicates the sweet, brief “Bandstand in the Sky” to Jeff Buckley. “You can take my life/But I’ll never die,” he sings. He also turns in a nice, piano-based cover of the Elvis classic “Suspicious Minds.” Snippets of “Do You Wanna Dance” and fellow New Jersey-ite Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” can also be heard here.
Live albums certainly aren’t what they used to be. And after a lot of lame ones over the years, it’s easy to come to any live album with diminished expectations. But as far as a place holder/contractual obligation filler goes, you could do worse than this one, particularly if you’re a fan of Yorn’s previous work.