Don't be surprised if Warren Zevon's next album is called Politics'll Slay Ya. Were he recording this month, rock's savviest curmudgeon would have a field day commenting on the presidential horserace, giving the U.S. body politic unprecedented and long-overdue growing pains. Ever since he began recording 30 years ago, this literate Angeleno has delivered stirring, pessimistic songs populated by hard-loving losers, mercenaries, gunrunners, shysters, and underneath it all, hopeful romantics. "Fistful of Rain," a new tune with an unusually full arrangement, mocks the vacancy behind political rhetoric. It also suggests faith is worth clinging to. Life'll Kill Ya, Zevon's new album, rocks damn hard, evoking pleasantly disquieting memories of his first three albums -- particularly the commercially successful Excitable Boy and the more experimental, still-thrilling Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. Backed by longtime bassist Jorge Calderon and drummer Winston Watson, Zevon has come up with a newly memorable cast of characters. The title track subjects a sniveling antihero to Zevon's disdain; "Porcelain Monkey" smokes a paranoiac out of his basement hole, bookending a story Zevon began with "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"; and "My Shit's Fucked Up" is postmodern blues at its most desperate and melodic. Zevon has always been a master at delineating night terrors, navigating them with his wet, stirring voice and his helplessly anthemic melodies. For this show, he'll work solo, as he has for the past several years. It's cheaper, but doesn't mean it'll be any less powerful -- particularly considering the strength of Zevon's latest material. Zevon says he's considered retiring, but he keeps being drawn back to songwriting. Apparently, that keeps his demons in check. The bonus is, it helps us recognize and perhaps conquer our own.
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