I gave a listen to Down to Earth recently, as I figured that I should give the infamous Jimmy Buffett a listen for the podcast, given his longevity, his popularity and his notoriety. But I read that he had essentially disowned that album – it is a pretty conventional singer-songwriter album that does not give you an idea of what was to come – so I dropped it. But this one, his first album in his own mind, is one I felt I couldn’t skip.
It gets off to an okay start, I guess, as “The Great Filling Station Holdup” is dumb but inoffensive. One could be forgiven of not associating it and a few other songs on this record with the “Jimmy Buffett” we are all vaguely aware of. In fact, this record were full of songs entirely in the vein of “Railroad Lady,” this might be a decent record – cliched perhaps, but definitely passable. But there are some other songs on this record.
Before I get to those, I just want to mention that Buffett has an undeniable sense of melody which makes many of his songs quite catchy. And even at this early stage, his fusion of country music with things you wouldn’t associate with country music – such as the Caribbean influence on “Cuban Crime of Passion” – is something novel. Buffett is a man with some musical talent, is what I’m saying. And if he had used those talents for Good, he might have turned into one of the good songwriters of his generation.
Alas, he uses his talents for Evil. What evil? Buffett’s lyrics are as notorious as his persona, that of an American moving as south as possible to spend his money on nothing but a good time. It’s the “Ugly American” syndrome minus the imperialism (well, the militarist imperialism part – there’s still plenty of cultural imperialism here). Though far from all the songs here are full Buffett, a few of them certainly are, none more so than “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” which is everything objectionable about Jimmy Buffett in song. (Don’t get me wrong, there are other songs from later in his career that are just as objectionable, but this one was first!) Here is a man with musical talent and all he can think about is boozing and fucking and how nice it is to be living in warmer climes.
Instead of listening to Buffett himself, you are better off listening to the parody version, “Bananas and Blow” by the inimitable Ween:
In addition to just nailing Jimmy Buffet, this song is better musically than anything I’ve heard by Buffett himself. I had to listen to it multiple times just to get through this record.
5/10 because some of the songs have lyrics which are not objectionable and he really does write catchy songs, the bastard.