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Cranky Canadian genius dislikes mobile phones; loves tar and nicotine   Print

by Stephen Holden
Blender
October 23, 2007

A seam of zany gallows humor runs through Joni Mitchell's first album of new songs in nine years. Invoking a divine blessing on good and evil alike in the title song, she prays, "Shine on worldwide traffic jams/Honking day and night/Shine on another asshole/Passing on the right!" She has a bugaboo about cell phones. The "red-light runners busy talking on their cell phones" named later in "Shine" also return in "Bad Dreams Are Good," as "the cell-phone zombies [who] babble through shopping malls." If Mitchell is decades past her prime as a songwriter, she can still come up with the occasionally sharp image ("We live in these electric scabs/These lesions once were lakes"). And the album's dense, electronically seasoned pop includes her catchiest tune in two decades ("This Place"). The cruelest joke is that Mitchell's smoggy voice is as polluted (from smoking) as the dying planet her songs describe. For this, she has no one to blame but herself.

 

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