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Record Review 

The irony of Warren Zevon -- who has shifted from boasting "I'll sleep when I'm dead" a quarter century ago to wistfully admitting "Life'll kill ya" on his most recent album -- isn't lost on the perpetually ornery singer/songwriter. Though his music is now less aggressive -- toned down to an acoustic, but far from folksy, approach here -- Zevon's twisted L.A. pop/rock effectively skewers the cloying sentimentality of the Eagles and former mentor Jackson Browne with a batch of lyrically poignant, often humorous tunes that prove age has only sharpened Zevon's poison pen.

Look no further than "My Shit's Fucked Up" (conveniently omitted from the back sleeve in the off chance of offending Wal-Mart shoppers). In the song, Zevon's doctor breaks the title's news to him, all to the backing of a lilting acoustic melody. His response -- "I had a dream ... it's shot to hell" -- could've been the album's subtitle. It's precisely that droll, black humor at which Zevon has always excelled, that's at the core of this uncompromising, witty and sardonic album. Song titles such as "I Was in the House When the House Burned Down," "I'll Slow You Down" and the closing lament, "Don't Let Us Get Sick," sharpen the blade for his unapologetically straight reading of Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life Again." In the context of the rest of these grouchy tracks, it's a goof of monumental proportions.

Make no mistake, Warren Zevon has been there, done that, and has the psychological (not to mention physical) scars to prove it. But, most importantly, he knows you do too.

Warren Zevon plays the PlanetJam Cotton Club, Sun., Dec. 10.

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