Since splitting with his vaunted backing band The Rumour in 1980, Graham Parker’s been able to maintain his edge working as a solo artist and with various accompanying ensembles. He’s able to wield that edge here in the thirty-year reunion with his former comrades, most effectively as Three Chords Good comes to an emphatic conclusion.
On the striking “Arlington’s Busy,” both GP & co. sound fully engaged vocally and instrumentally, suggesting their chemistry is still intact. Still, this album overall also hints it will compel further work to cultivate it to a consistently high level as appears there and the bracing rock and roll of “Coathangers.”
“Stop Cryin’ About The Rain,” with its slight veneer or sarcasm, is not so well-wrought as the trenchant observations that have filled such recent solo works as the sterling Don’t Tell Columbus. And “She Rocks Me” trods well-tilled ground musically and lyrically, no redemption arriving in the form of a galvanizing Brinsley Schwarz guitar solo–or anything else for that matter. “Last Bookstore in Town,” however, is more like it, concluding the album with elliptical cultural commentary befitting Graham Parker’s acerbic worldview, while The Rumour demonstrate carefully-tempered restraint fully in line with the ambivalent tone in the lyrics.
In the wake of the confused and confusing title song, “Old Soul” haunts too, its ghostly quality a mark of Parker’s co-production savvy in tandem with Dave Cook. The sequencing of “A Lie Gets Halfway ‘Round the World” immediately following, creates a distinct contrast in the latter two cuts, thereby elevating the impact of Parker’s performance, not to mention The Rumour, as the Andrew Bodnar/Stephen Goulding rhythm sections kicks into a higher gear, while Schwarz and Martin Belmont’s guitars joust with the percussive organ sounds of Bob Andrews.
Perhaps Graham Parker isn’t comfortable, at least in the company of his old friends, describing the (greater) sense of inner peace many of these new compositions carry. It’s understandable it’d take time for the whole group to bond together after three decades apart: a potential romp like “He Gets Halfway Around the World” might otherwise not sound so tentative nor find the musicians stumbling to a halt. A similar lack of synchrony reappears during “Live in Shadows” which never truly takes flight, thereby suggesting Graham Parker & The Rumour might’ve been better off to play live for awhile before going into the studio to record. The high points on Three Chords Good hint the songs as well as the sessions would’ve resulted in a markedly different outcome.