Life’ll Kill Ya (Artemis Records)

Warren Zevon

By John Kusak

Life’ll Kill Ya is Warren Zevon’s ninth album in thirty years but only his second studio album since 1991's Mr. Bad Example. During that stretch of time, he has traveled widely and sought out some of life’s more interesting paths to travel. He has continued to perform and create and the results as illustrated on “Life’ll Kill Ya mean that this might be his best album of the last decade.

No need to ask where he’s been, but to listen to what he’s given us. And on the album, he covers much territory. From catchy songs with great riffs to autobiographical sketches to covers, Life'll Kill Ya is a CD without a bad song, by a great songwriter who life hasn’t killed yet. What outs Zevon among the great songwriters of our time is his ability to coalesce simple folk wisdom into songs that are simple and poetic, but still crafted with irony, wit, and humor. The words follow the flow of the song without struggle. The songs have verses and a chorus, which flow together with ease.

“I Was In the House When the House Burned Down” is a song with a desperate, ecstatic tone, announcing a climatic end to all things, but the vibe is light and it creates a fervent foot tapping sing along.

The title track “Life’ll Kill Ya” is filled with trademark one-liners:

You have an invalid haircut / It hurts when you smile

 You better get out of town before your nickname expires

You need a license to dance.

He follows up by saying: "Life’ll Kill Ya / that’s what I said

 Life’ll Kill Ya / then you’ll be dead.

“Fist of Rain” is a pretty song that embraces the contradictions and paradoxes of life. He’s not preaching but stating the obvious with a twist of irony:

You’ve heard all the answers/But the question remain.

 Grab a hold of that fist full of rain.

He covers Steve Winwood's “Back in the High Life” with a slow version that pays tribute to Winwood’s beautiful lyrics, but which are spoken by a man who has finally come to experience the "high life" himself.

“My S*s F*d Up” is an unpretentious slogan that drives to the heart of the matter. No excuses, it is an existential song without remorse. Its irony again is that it follows “Back in the High Life.”

Yeah, yeah, my s*s f*d up/It has happen to the best of us

The rich folks suffer like the rest of us

It’ll happen to you.

Songwriting aside, Zevon also displays his instrumental virtuosity on this album: if he's not playing his catchy rhythms on guitar or his soothing keyboard work, he can be heard on the penny whistle, theremin (the thing that made that weird, wobbly sound in all those '30s science fiction movies), piccolo or percussion.