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Don Henley

Warner Bros.

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You can blame that rogue bastard George Clooney when everywhere you go this summer—the beach, the barbecues, the bathroom—Don Henley’s sap-soaked new love song, “Taking You Home,” is the only tune you hear. When tough-as-nails head nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) made her departure from ER by liplocking with long-lost “soulmate” Dr. Doug Ross (our boy Clooney), Henley’s new single, a synth-diluted tune that’s light on lyrics and relatively hookless, fueled the schmaltz. Debuting the weeper on the most-watched episode of the most-watched show on TV is a brilliant business move—especially for a middle-aged rocker desperate for an adult-contemporary foothold in an industry ruled by the teen-pop partiers at MTV. But Henley’s overblown desires don’t end there: Clocking in at more than 70 minutes, Inside Job—his first full-length release since 1989’s The End of the Innocence—is a bloated, 13-track pop spectacle split into equal parts mad-as-hell and lost-in-love, a Jekyll-and-Hyde routine that Mr. Dark Desert Highway has been performing for years. There’s actually some good stuff here: Album opener “Nobody Else in the World but You” takes funkified potshots at supermodels and features Stevie Wonder getting slinky on the keyboards. On the hard-stomping “Workin’ It,” the disgust Henley felt for the network news on “Dirty Laundry” has been spread out to cover pretty much all of the “corporation nation-states/Where the loudest live to trample on the least.” And not all of the love songs, where Henley’s husky, California-sunset voice always sounds sweetest, are as toothachy as “Taking You Home”: “For My Wedding,” written by Larry John McNally, is a dusty “Desperado” nod to Henley’s Eagles yearbook, and “Everything Is Different Now” is an epic tear-jerker perfect for end-credits. Of course, there’s a lot of crap on Inside Job, too—”My Thanksgiving” and “They’re Not Here, They’re Not Coming” are career-tainting cheez—but let’s be honest: Lots of nasty words won’t stop all those 37-year-old Bank of America tellers, Safeway supervisors, and Benetton assistant managers from mining the album for upcoming wedding music. —Sean Daly