Home Read Albums Of The Week: Todd Snider | Crank It, We’re Doomed

Albums Of The Week: Todd Snider | Crank It, We’re Doomed

Some of the Nashville maverick's long-lost leftovers finally bust out of quarantine — and as you oughta expect from Snider, they're wild, woolly and wonderfully weird.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Sometimes an artist makes a record and then decides not to release it. Neil Young and Prince did it multiple times. Todd Snider is also in that club — he’s left three albums on the shelf over an equal number of decades. But now Snider has decided to take one of those albums off the shelf. Some 16 years after it was recorded, Crank It, We’re Doomed has finally seen the light of day.

Snider was in the midst of one of the most creative periods of his career when he recorded Crank It, We’re Doomed in 2007. He was writing at a frenetic pace and experimenting with musical ideas he would develop more fully on later releases. He not only finished and recorded the 15 songs on Crank It that year, he also wrote and recorded the seven songs that appeared on Shit Sandwich, the digital-only EP released in 2010 by his alter ego Elmo Buzz & the Eastside Bulldogs. The tracks on Shit Sandwich made up the bulk of Snider’s 2016 full-length release Eastside Bulldog.

“It was very much a blur,” he says, looking back on that year. “A blur not because of the party going on, but because of how many songs I was coming up with. It was probably the pinnacle of my time making up songs. Like they were really coming at me, and I didn’t know what to do with them all.”

Crank It, We’re Doomed was supposed to be the followup to a pair of acclaimed records that had taken his career to another level — East Nashville Skyline and The Devil You Know. The album was mastered and ready to be manufactured when he decided to pull the plug. Asked why, Snider puts on his best movie trailer voice and says, “The year was 2007 — the sea was angry that year.”

He gets the laugh he’s going for, but the question remains — and the why is not so easy to explain. His decision to shelve the record all those years ago was as much intuitive as it was the product of deductive reasoning. “At the end, I was torn,” he says. “I felt like, not only did I have all these story songs, sort of normal songs, there also were all these protest songs. And really that is where I lost the plot. I had too many scenes in the movie, and I had too many songs. It was all over the map. But I also remember feeling like it wasn’t done either. Like it needed more songs.”

Snider had intended Crank It, We’re Doomed to be a double album, with The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street, The BeatlesWhite Album and Bob Dylan’s Desire as its sonic touchstones/boundaries. It unquestionably shares some musical similarities with those releases. But with 15 tracks totaling 49 minutes in length, Crank It does fall a bit short of double-album length.

Although Snider decided to not release Crank It, We’re Doomed, he did include five tracks on his next albums Peace Queer and The Excitement Plan, with three songs getting new titles. In addition, he recorded new versions of six songs for The Excitement Plan and Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables. Some fans may prefer these original versions, which in some cases are dramatically different. The record also includes four tracks no one outside the musicians and Snider’s inner circle have ever heard, and those recordings are pure gold.

Snider recorded Crank It, We’re Doomed at Eric McConnell’s East Nashville studio, where he also cut East Nashville Skyline and The Devil You Know. He was backed by the core of musicians he worked with on those albums: guitarist Will Kimbrough, drummer Paul Griffith, violinist Molly Thomas, and either McConnell or Peter Cooper on bass. He also brought in keyboardist Jimmy Wallace for the sessions.

After hearing the record for the first time in more than a decade, Snider was no longer bothered by it being “all over the map.” So he shared it with a few friends and advisors, who recognized the historical importance and also felt it has withstood the test of time. They all encouraged him to release it. “I couldn’t see it conceptually back then,” Snider says. “But now I can see it was about a guy losing the plot.”