At 56, Graham Parker has lost little of the caustic bile that informed so much of his best work of the mid- to late '70s. Always mislabeled as "angry," Parker's songs can better be described as surly and intellectual. A potent songwriter with an eye for hypocrisy and mistaken vanity, Parker has proven a viable act across a variety of unexpected genres. Starting in 2004 with Your Country, Parker began flirting more overtly with American roots music, forgoing the punchy pub rock of his younger years for a shock and drawl that provided perfect backing for his middle-aged musings.
Don't Tell Columbus, Parker's fourth album in three years, is less roots and more (primarily acoustic) rock. It occasionally feels as if the material could have been a bit more thought out. For every sharp-eyed take on his adopted home ("I Discovered America"), there appears a feast of clichés ("Love or Delusion," "Somebody Saved Me"). Still, his singing is as impressive as ever, phrases brought to life with just the right enunciation, words that work as sentimental expressions of lost youth and as hard-edged shots at the status quo. Recalling Struck by Lightning, Parker's 1991 effort that fruitfully merged the spunk of his youth with a mature acceptance of his status as a cult artist, Don't Tell Columbus is the work of a guy who has come to grips with his lot in life and is unafraid of sharing the grisly details of just how he got there.