The McCain Experience Greatest Hits - Are You McCained?
After one of arguably the longest and most prolific careers in the industry, John McCain has finally approved a Greatest Hits album, acceding to the wishes of his many fans, and of course the record company. The tracks chart a course from his humble, almost unknown, beginnings right to the pinnacle of his popularity late last year, and reflect the many changes the world as much as the man himself have experienced in the last number of decades.
The opener is the pounding Hanoi-ing
, a funky '60s beat tied in with McCain's inimitable style. The lyrics themselves are worth paying close attention to here: "It's turned China white, my hair, my hair, now c'mon everybody throw hands in the air IN THE AIR!"
. Strong stuff, and very heavily charged with personal emotion and experience - a theme McCain returns to with regularity throughout his career. Hanoi-ing
was of course the break through single after five and a half years on the edges of the industry, and some pundits would have it that this very struggle is what made McCain the performer he is. Other critics hold that those very years are what have damaged his credibility as a superstar, and that the bitterness engendered by being frozen out has never completely left him.
The second and third tracks (Killin' Time
and My Bed? My Bad?
) are from the grandiosely named National Hero
album, which overall reflects McCains attitude to his new found fame and the roller coaster ride it took him on. The tracks positively ooze with egotism and brashness. While the album itself sold well, critics were to pan it comprehensively, often returning to it in later years to add credence to their diatribes against him. Nevertheless, National Hero
did enough to propel McCain into his epic third studio album D.C. D.C.
, the fourth track was the lead single from the first part of the D.C. D.C.
triple album, and is a suitable track for this compilation. "I've been to Hanoi, I've been to D.C., I've gone over the water, and came back greasy" was a controversial lyric even at the time, and was seen as political posturing even by those who knew him best. McCain to this day insists that he only wrote what was in his head and had carried no agenda over from the early days of his career. The critics were as ever quick to pick up on his early isolation, and would often cite it as the
influence behind all of his work. Other, and perhaps even more controversial, tracks from the first part of D.C. D.C.
include "No Milk"
, seen as an attack on civil rights leader Martin Luther King and "Fall Time in Santiago"
, which can be seen as (at the very least) a rose-tinted view of General Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator.Hands in my Pockets
, the seventh track here, and the only truly notable track from D.C. D.C.
part two, appears to be McCain declaring his innocence for some unstated crime or other dodgy activity. While no one has ever exactly pinned down the incident to which the artist refers, there is plenty of speculation from both fans and critics.
The eighth, ninth and tenth tracks on Are You McCained
, all come from D.C. D.C.
part three, and reflect McCains later signature fusion of staying solidly to his genres roots, while occasionally throwing his listeners with some motif or instrumental piece from something out of left field.
After the release of D.C. D.C.
, McCain put his career aside for a time, and worked on various projects both within and outside the industry. Several collaborations with artists both within and outside his genre garnered applause from even some of the more jaded critics. During this time, John McCain also fell into a deep and bitter rivalry with "Little" George Bush, and while he showed he could work with the man several high profile clashes led to an ever strained atmosphere.
It was after "Little" George seemed to be fading in his power with "Half Here, All Gone"
, that McCain decided to release a comeback album, White House, Who's House?
, a blatant attempt to move on "Little" George's fan base. Recording was beset with problems, and almost didn't even make it out of the writing stage, but it was pushed through by the record company pairing McCain and the then relatively unknown Sarah Palin in a duet album. Insiders claim that McCain was unhappy with this turn of events, but knew that it was the only chance to have the album released at a time it would have most effect.
The opening and title track from White House, Who's House?
is the 11th of the compilation is a confused declaration os his desire to not be "someone" but to do "something" instead, and features McCain solo. While the single itself sold well at the time among loyal fans, it didn't seem to have much market impact. So much so that marketing was reduced for the album, and McCain himself had to fund it. "All Heart"
deal with the many stories regarding his health, and "All Heart"
in particular goes to great effort to list all of his medical treatments to date in an effort to assuage concern: "I've got 99 ailments, but a twitch ain't one". For songs that are trying to assure to his good health, the duet with Palin seems to be very strong here, and it seems she's actually holding him up at times.
The final track "365 2 173"
is an almost fitting denouement to both White House, Who's House?
and Are You McCained
. For while it promises much, it ultimately fails to deliver, and as it is a song about failure this is in some ways ironic. Ultimately, White House, Who's House?
sold well to the hardcore fans, but appealed little elsewhere. And while it's star, McCain, seems to be fading into relative obscurity Sarah Palin appears to be building from her first mainstream exposure.
Our ultimate verdict: One for the history buffs and completists, but with little lasting appeal and a very confused and angry short term appeal. You'd have to have been mad to buy it in the first place.