Love him or hate him--there rarely is a middle ground--Pat Green is the biggest thing to come out of Texas since, well, George W. Bush. And now that Green is entering his second term as a major-label artist with his Lucky Ones CD, it appears that quite a few of the Texas fans who helped put him in the big time are not so happy with what he has become.
Green's hard-core fans are nothing if not fervent. When I slammed Green in this paper a number of years back, some 160 of his followers posted on the paper's Web forum in his defense. Or, rather, accused me of knowing nothing about Texas music and being a Dallas yuppie and/or New York faggot.
But current Internet postings indicate the tide is turning. On HornFans.com, a University of Texas alumni site, and LoneStarMusic.com, a major online retail outlet for Texas music, the description "sucks" appears again and again in reference to Lucky Ones. About half of the 53 customer reviews on LoneStarMusic.com are negative, though it should be noted that Green still has his fair share of avid defenders.
Pat Green performs at Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas, on Sunday, January 16.
On a thread titled "Note to Pat Green" on HornFans.com, "HornyRingman" writes, "Your new album sucks ass!" This from someone who says he's "been listening to his stuff since day one, as well as catching a few live shows a year."
"Not even country," says another listener. "Some sort of poppy, bubbly, teenybopper soft rock."
Even among customer reviews at Amazon.com, the disgruntled are griping. A self-described "diehard fan" from San Angelo writes, "After the past three pieces of trash that he has released, I refuse to listen to any of his songs anymore."
Supportive Green fans contend in their posts that Wave on Wave and now Lucky Ones reflect his artistic growth. "Lucky Ones is Pat Green at his best. Pat has matured into the next John Mellencamp, Guy Clark and Willie Nelson combined," contends "sde322-Shawn" on LoneStarMusic.com.
But others aren't buying it. "Pat has matured all right," writes "MrMan." "He has matured right into Kenny Chesney."
On the DC Texas Exes Message Board, "dancehall dreamer" calls the new Green album "a piece of crap," going on to say, "To all the folks that predicted PG would sell out once he signed with Universal, I'm sorry I doubted your prescience."
The complaint that Green has sold out is a common one. In his defense, Green was already making the greenbacks hand over fist here in Texas before he inked a deal with Universal, the largest major-label group.
But former fans don't seem to care. "Ryan" on LoneStarMusic.com writes, "The stuff on this CD does not sound like Pat Green at all. It's just another product from Nashville." Or as "JR" writes, "This album is so bad that Kenny Chesney would listen to it and say 'wow, what a sellout.'"
Dismayed Green fans recall his song "Here We Go," about how he "gave up on Nashville a long time ago." (This was, it should be noted, probably before Nashville had any interest in Green.) As "Bt cat" writes on Amazon.com, "If you listen to Pat's earlier CD, he writes about staying true to his roots on many tunes. I was listening to it yesterday, and it amazed me at how much Pat Green has done exactly what he sang he wouldn't do on his earlier disc."
But up in Music City, it seems, they are happy to welcome Green into the fold--or maybe onto the assembly line. In a review headlined "Lucky for us, Pat Green rocks without any mention of Texas," Tennessean critic Peter Cooper writes: "Pat Green used to be the gag-me-with-another-Texas-hill-country-reference guy. And, his successes have spawned genuine musical evil in the form of a bevy of untalented, bombastic, college-circuit Lone Star singer-songwriters who want nothing more than to bludgeon ears with artless frat music and then bellow in interviews about how much better Texas is than Nashville.
"So why not boycott Lucky Ones on principle alone? Well, because there's some really good music here...The result is a solid, fine-sounding, edge of country album that should have appeal beyond the beer & bong crowd."
It used to be critics who led the "Pat Green sucks" charge. But John Goodspeed of the San Antonio Express-News goes beyond Cooper in his praise of Green. "With so many standout, potential hits, how will they ever choose which songs to pitch to radio?" he writes. "Lucky Ones is a career milestone...This is not just Pat Green's finest CD--it's one of the year's best."
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Even though I was anything but a fan of Green before, I was still among those who expected more from Lucky Ones, only to have my hopes dashed. Wave on Wave, despite the garbled metaphor of its overblown title song, was at least a small artistic step for Green. The John Mellencougar production style fit Green's Texas dance-hall frat rock well. And even if he still didn't seem to get what makes the names he drops--like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark--so special, damned if I didn't punch the car radio button one day to hear "Guy Like Me" and find it, well, kind of catchy. So I was hoping that Green might at least, if not hit one out of the park, get past first base on his next release.
But on Lucky Ones he fouls out, hitting the ceiling of his limited talents with a resounding thump on a set that's a turgid country-rock mishmash. Green swings for the fence on collaborations with co-writing slut Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 fame and sapmeister Radney Foster (who also contributes the title tune) and comes up with strings of clichés that would embarrass even a Hallmark writer. He nods to his "beer & bong crowd" base on "College," a co-write and duet with Brad Paisley that, for all its hooky groove, is little more than an ode to party-pig ignorance (though it does have a fitting line for the Dumbya years: "I learned almost everything that I know without ever gaining knowledge in college").
As Green trades verses with a real singer like Paisley, it only places in bold relief the limitations of his voice, which wears awfully thin by album's end. And to prove that his disaffected fans have a point, the best tracks on the disc are Texan: Green's take on Jack Ingram's "One Thing," even if it is a fuzzy Xerox of Ingram's original, and his bluesy co-write with Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Sweet Revenge."
Oh, maybe I should just shut my yap. After all, critics keep drinking the Kool-Aid. (A recent Fort Worth Star-Telegram review gushed over Green's live performance, equating him to no less than Willie Nelson.) But if anyone has a right to criticize Green, it would be those music fans whose money has lined the pockets of his jeans. "Pat Green was always my favorite artist but now I really am having problems," reads a customer review of Lucky Ones on LoneStarMusic.com. "This CD sucks and I am starting to think that now, so does Pat Green."