Drive-By Truckers : Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians – Greatest Hits 1998-2009

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What a bullshit title.

That was my first thought when I got my hands on Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians – Greatest Hits 1998-2009, the recent collection of “hits” released by the Drive-By Truckers.

In my mind, ugly buildings (or the architects who build them), whores, and politicians are out there for the easy money.  Easy buildings are easy to make and, well, if you have enough money, you can too easily get into the pants of any whore or politician.

Having spent much time over the last few years listening to the grungy rock and roll purveyed by the Truckers, to label these songs as “hits” is nearly blasphemous.  It hints that anybody out there – any man jack with a guitar and a chip on his shoulder – could knock out these snapshots of blue collar reality with the same aplomb as the Truckers.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In the truest sense of the word, none of the sixteen songs on this collection are hits.  We aren’t talking about songs that have sold millions of copies, dominated radio airplay, or made the Truckers the soundtrack for Monday Night Football or the most recent episode of the trendy sitcom de jure.  To the contrary, these songs are pained and honest, as real and true as the mortgage payment that can’t be paid this month or the child support check that’s always late.

More than any other band, the Truckers capture the reality of what it means to scrape and scrape and barely get by.  The band crafts songs that are stories – from the wide open, balls to the wall sentiment of “Let There Be Rock,” which so masterfully pays homage to the golden heyday of stadium rock, to the ironic and sad tale of “Uncle Frank,” whose tragic demise smacks in the face of all the promise of the New South.

Considering the current predicament faced by the modern American farmer, few would find fault with the protagonist in “Sinkhole,” and the fatherly advice in “Outfit,” a songwriting gem provided by former guitarist Jason Isbell when he was just 22 years old, is pure brilliance.

None of these songs are hits – they are too pure and labored, too real and forthright, to be hits.  The masses don’t want to wrap their ears around the hard times and harder knocks that  provide inspiration for the Drive-By Truckers.

And that could be the biggest compliment paid to this batch of songs.

That is no bullshit.

Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians – Greatest Hits 1998-2009 is out now on New West Records.

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