Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is Todd Snider’s inspirational album.
“I want to inspire people,” Snider says. “I want to inspire them to leave home, to do things traditionally considered wrong. If you listen to my record and vandalize your school, godspeed. If you listen to my record and punch your stepdad, thank you, you’ve made me feel better about
what I do. I don’t believe in the American dream, and family values can suck my asshole’s balls.”
Snider says this while smiling, because he says most things while smiling, because he knows family values are unlikely to do such a thing, and because he’s on the happy back end of happy hour at a favorite East Nashville bar. He’s laughing but not necessarily kidding, and Agnostic
Hymns & Stoner Fables is anything but a nice, folk/Americana troubadour album. It’s not a nice anything.
It is jagged, leering, lurching and howling, and filled with unhappy endings both experienced and intimated: “It ain’t the despair that gets you, it’s the hope,” he sings in the album-closer, “Big Finish.” That Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is also roaringly funny is tribute to Snider’s unique sensibilities, and to his standing as what Rolling Stone magazine calls “America’s sharpest musical storyteller.” Anguish without laughter is boring, like intensive care without morphine, and Snider has never been within 100 miles of boring. Also, he didn’t earn the
attention, friendship and fandom of American musical giants like Kris Kristofferson and John Prine by writing mopey protest songs.
Anyway, these aren’t protest songs. They’re inspirational. We’ve covered that already, right? It’s populated mostly by losers in the midst of losing, with a couple of spotlight appearances from the humbly anointed 1 percent. The result is something disconcerting, cracked and wholly original. It’s something that stands apart from the music of Snider’s heroes, and from Snider’s own, much-celebrated past. Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is Snider’s 12th album (14th, if we count a “best of” set and a collection of B-sides and demos.
Snider doesn’t talk around the vulnerable part, or the angry part, or the part about how everything we’re taught about goodness and righteousness and capitalism, about God and family values winds up exploding into violence and chaos, wonder and longing. He doesn’t talk around how the whole deal is enough to make you vandalize your school, punch your stepdad, or make lewd suggestions as to just what family values might do in their spare time. And he doesn’t talk around the part about how he doesn’t know any more than you do about any of these things, or the part about how he might be wrong. It’s just that nothing has been delivered yet, nothing revealed. It is, as he sings, too soon to tell.
Here are 10 new songs for the waiting room. They’re here to inspire.