Picks and Pans Review: Sentimental Hygiene

updated 06/29/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/29/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Warren Zevon

After a five-year layoff from recording, the wicked Wasp of the West Coast is back. And Zevon hits the ground sardonic. Detox Mansion, written with Jorge Calderón, is a nasty send-up of high-profile rehab programs like the one at the Betty Ford Center. Zevon crows sarcastically on the song, "I've been rakin' leaves with Liza/ Me and Liz clean up the yard." On Even a Dog Can Shake Hands, a cynical look at the L.A. music business that he wrote with members of the group R.E.M., Zevon sings, "Abandon all hope and don't rock the boat/ And we'll all make a few hundred grand." Obviously Zevon can still write like Randy Newman with a chip on his shoulder and a bad tequila hangover, but there is a healthy diversity to Sentimental Hygiene. Boom Boom Mancini, which rumbles along on a menacing guitar riff, is a précis of the fighter's career: "He fought for the title with Frias in Vegas/ And he put him away in round No. 1." It's the best (all right, probably the only) rock song written for a boxer since Bob Dylan's Hurricane, about Rubin Carter. Dylan appears on this album, by the way, to blow a little harp on The Factory, a blue-collar lament. A number of old (Waddy Wachtel) and new (Brian Setzer) Zevon cohorts also lend a hand. On the title track, Neil Young contributes one of his torn-from-the-heart-of-an-guish guitar solos. Okay, so Zevon still sings like Swamp Thing, but he gets special dispensation because he is primarily a songwriter and a unique talent. Welcome back, excitable one. (Virgin)

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