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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Criticism: Buffet’s last ballad

Via IMdB
Buffet’s last ballad album cover.

Grab your flip-flops and margarita mix and get ready to “keep the party going,” just as the Mayor of Margaritaville would’ve wanted. On Nov. 3, Mailboat/Sun Records released Jimmy Buffett’s first posthumous album “Equal Strain On All Parts.” Buffett’s 31st studio album boasts his hallmark laid-back 5 o’clock-somewhere country-island rock-and-roll with a mix of gentle old-time wisdom.

Recorded in the beginning of 2023, the 14-track record impressively swings from Buffett’s goofy good-times persona in “Fish Porn” and “Like My Dog,” to gorgeously reflective in “Bubbles Up” and Mary Black’s 1989 “Columbus.” Buffett skillfully balances between sunny and cheerful with beautiful melancholic songs that make the listening experience pleasant and dynamic. Long-time Parrotheads couldn’t have asked for a better closing album.

The opening track, “The University of Bourbon Street,” is exactly like the name implies — Buffet’s time getting his street education as a young musician in New Orleans. The track features the legendary New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band and plenty of piano and brass to make this a natural fit in the Big Easy.

The song, of course, gives a tribute to Buffett’s bayou heroes in the lyrics, “I was taught by the Neville Brothers / Benny Spellman, and a whole lotta others / That brass brand blew my mind / When I joined in the second line.”

Buffett quickly changes the tone in the second track, “Bubbles Up.” Reminiscent of other vocally impressive songs, such as his 1973 “Death of an Unpopular Poet,” Buffett pipes an ode to past adventures and the importance of optimism in pushing through the hard times in life.

A slow pedal steel guitar pushes the melody as Buffett poetically sings, “So, when the journey gets long / There is light up above / And joy, there is always enough / Bubbles up.” The song’s tender message makes it a memorable album highlight, and if watched with the accompanying music video composed of clips from Buffett’s life, it’s rather emotional.

On the lighter side of the album, tracks like “Audience Of One,” and the humorous “Fish Porn,” have a lively rhythm you can’t help but bop your head in time to. In “Close Calls,” Buffett employs a bluegrass, honky-tonk feel that details his numerous brushes with death. Famous Beatles member Paul McCartney handles bass in “My Gummie Just Kicked In” as Buffett belts the sing-along chorus, “Don’t know where I’m goin’ / Don’t know where I’ve been / All I know for certain / Is my gummie just kicked in.” The track is classic Buffett with the added bonus of being inspired by a real dinner party between McCartney and Buffett and, of course, an edible.

In a touching tribute to his grandfather, Buffett reflects over a gentle guitar on the deeper meaning of “All those little things that my grandfather said” in the title track. In today’s age of overused snare drums and copycat beats, the storytelling in “Equal Strain” is simply a breath of fresh air.

To close the album, Buffett covers Bob Dylan’s 1976 “Mozambique” featuring Emmylou Harris and a playful acoustic guitar and drum set. The searching song of an adventurer looking for his next exploit is a fitting end to an album that is all about life’s journeys and ups and downs.

Fans have long lamented that Buffett, despite his deep discography of versatile and genre-defying music, is too often only associated with the songs “Margaritaville” and his work with Alan Jackson in “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” “Equal Strain” shows the breadth of Buffett’s musical talent by taking the listener through a creative blend of fun, catchy and emotionally deep tracks that do justice to one of the most beloved musicians of the last five decades.

One can be sure Buffett is dancing in the conga line up above.

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About the Contributor
Ryan Lindner
Ryan Lindner, Head Opinion Editor
Ryan Lindner is a political science senior from Hutto, Texas, minoring in history. Ryan joined The Battalion as an opinion columnist in June 2022  until he became the Assistant Opinion Editor for the Spring 2023 semester. Since July 2023, Ryan has been The Battalion's Head Opinion Editor. Ryan has covered a range of topics, from local politics and campus culture to national issues, such as school choice and drug policy. After graduation, Ryan hopes to pursue a master's degree in international affairs.
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