Permit me to start with a reviewer’s cliche. Ahem. There are two types of people: people who say, “Jason Isbell… Nah never heard of him,” and people who say, “Jason Isbell…is one of the greatest songwriters in the world today.”
The former Drive-By Trucker has built a solid back catalogue since leaving the outfit in 2007, some solo and some accompanied by backing band The 400 Unit. Be Afraid is the lead single from his forthcoming album backed by The 400 Unit, Reunions (out May 15).
Be Afraid is a little noisier than you’d expect from a Jason Isbell song. I’m by no means talking Jesus & Mary Chain here, but there is a little electronica low in the mix (ooooo) and the overall sound is more in the realms of pop and rock rather than the “hella country” sound he may more readily be associated with.
Lyrically, Isbell never phones it in and Be Afraid is no exception. It’s opaque enough to be about anyone or anything but crafted enough to resonate on wherever it lands: “And if your words add up to nothing, then you’re making a choice/ To sing a cover when you need a battle cry”.
There’s also this slightly melancholic euphoria vibe running from the middle eight to the chorus that feels similar Dakota by Stereophonics. And on that note I want to end with a take on a reviewer’s cliche. Ahem. There are two types of people: people who know exactly what I mean by that Stereophonics reference, and people who don’t.