(6 of 6)
That's a bit much, but you probably won't hear a better adult pop album this year. Musically, Taking the Long Way is full of swaggering country-tinged rock hooks--like a peak Eagles record, except without the misogyny and drug references and the advice to Take It Easy. Instead the songs aspire to do what the best pop always does, function as a smart expression of its creators' lives while remaining accessible to its listeners'. There are allusions to the recent past--on the jubilant opener The Long Way Around ("It's been two long years now/ Since the top of the world came crashing down") and the breakup song Everybody Knows ("I swore they'd never see me cry/ You'd never see me cry")--but they're only obvious if you look for them. Bitter End is a sing-along about fair-weather friends (the group fell out with a few lefty rockers who, amazingly, felt cheated of the nation's opprobrium) and even Lullaby is the rare song about kids well crafted enough that the childless could mistake it for a love song. And as things begin to sag a bit in Long Way's final third, the album delivers a knockout, So Hard, the first pop song in memory about infertility (Maguire and Robison conceived by in vitro fertilization) and also the catchiest, most complicated love song on the record.
Will anybody buy it? The Dixie Chicks talk about Long Way as the end of their commercial salad days, but they're shrewd enough to know that only suckers choose between art and commerce. "I'm not ready to fly coach," jokes Maguire, and indeed Taking the Long Way could easily sub as the title for their marketing plan. They'll tour starting in July and flog the record on a few select talk shows. "Natalie's new motto is, 'What would Bruce Springsteen do?'" says Robison, laughing. "Not that we're of that caliber, but 'Would Bruce Springsteen do The View?'" They're not doing The View.
Maines says she's not looking for more battles, but she won't shy away from any either. "Everything was so nice and fine and happy for us for the longest time," she says of their pre-Incident days. "It was awesome to feel those feelings again that I felt in high school: to be angry, to be sure that you're right and that the things you do matter. You don't realize that you're not feeling those feelings until you do. And then you realize how much more interesting life is."