Jackson Browne just dropped his fourteenth studio album, Standing in the Breach, Tuesday, and the reviews so far have been stellar. “Ringing peals of guitar herald the coming of a great new Jackson Browne release, “ said Mojo. It “sounds both familiar and utterly new…. His words perhaps more prosaic (certainly more ardently brazen), are just as transportive—just as likely to take us back to another time, too. A time of innocence and lost love. A time of youth,” said Something Else Reviews. Jackson is marking the occasion with two shows at the Beacon Theatre tonight and tomorrow night—the second, previously unscheduled one, was added due to ticket demand. Katrina and I sat down with Jackson at the Hotel Beacon one afternoon last week and talked about politics and music. Below, thanks to the expert taping and typing abilities of Nation intern Edward Hart, is an edited version of what we said, with a few sentences clarified and a whole bunch taken out. Hope you enjoy it. —ERA
Katrina vanden Heuvel: So, thank you for taking the time.
Jackson Browne: Oh, no. Thank you for asking—for wanting to do this. I’m thrilled.
KVH: You’re carrying The New York Times.
JB: I get The New York Times every day that I’m touring actually and at home. And then John gets it for me wherever we are and whatever the local paper is, but this is—so this is—it’s always interesting to—you know—well, it’s not interesting, but it’s always notable to note the difference in the coverage.
KVH: I was listening to Lives in the Balance and—a lot of questions about that—but you have a great line in there, which I’m not going to get right, but about the media—about talk radio, talk shows and what they kind of peddle. And I’m just wondering: we’re living in a different time, but many of the issues you’ve written about, have sung about—you know, war, lack of humanity, lies government tells—I’m wondering how you see the media right now.
JB: Well, certainly the media’s complicit in everything the government does. Of course, the broadest comment I would make is that you—as informed as you try to be, you can’t—you have to know that it’s what they’re leaving out. But the great thing is that there’s the Internet…. I think we live in a really open society but that—and that there are many freedoms, including the freedom to completely deceive and to—and to sell—and so buyer beware. You know, you can buy a bottle that has—that says glacier water or spring water on it and has a picture of a mountain on it, and it comes from a tap in New Jersey.
You know, it’s like there’s no law against that. I think it’s really hard to raise any issues about, you know, the policy that—the policies that our government does without being considered disloyal, you know. Because here we are like fighting this—this enemy—this—But never is there much of an examination of the historical conditions that led to the conflagration in the first place.
Eric Alterman: Sounds like you could write for The Nation.
JB: If I could write, I could write for The Nation.
EA: I’ve been listening to the new album. I love the production of it. I love the long fade-outs and the guitar work. I don’t know most the musicians on it, but I’m really impressed by that. But I’m surprised at how specific you are politically in the lyrics. It’s very unusual for any artist to do it. I mean you wrote about Central America rather specifically and the environment a bit, but this you’re really going after direct issues in a way that an artist of your stature rarely, rarely does. It’s much more of a punk-young-band-Internet kind of thing.