An eccentric combination of Starbucks and the Iraq war has drawn Joni Mitchell back to music six years after she quit in disgust at the record industry, which she denounced as a "cesspool". The Starbucks link came when Mitchell made a compilation of her favourite songs for the coffee chain and felt her musical enthusiasm return. (She's now signed to Starbucks' new record label Hear Music alongside fellow 1960s icon Paul McCartney.) The war in Iraq was a negative spur: it has inspired Mitchell to pen a series of apocalyptic songs that take aim at everything from global conflict ("Men love war!/That's what history's for") to drivers who jump red lights.
Yet the music is oddly languid. "This Place" is a charming ode to the Canadian's adopted home in California, lilting steel guitar mimicking the easy to and fro of a Pacific seascape, Mitchell's warning about the wrecking effects of "toxic spills" and "big money" adding an acid undertow to the good- natured harmonies. "Hana", which features tastefully urgent percussion and serrated flashes of guitar, works up a head of steam, but otherwise the album uncoils like a lazy snake. Even the anger in the lyrics is tempered by Mitchell's mahogany vocals, deepened and stained over the years by cigarettes. Fine in parts, it's an uneven album, as shown by the ivory tower liberalism and schmaltzy synthesiser harmonies of the title track, which subsides into agitpop easy listening.
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