Song 83: Thin Lizzy, “The Boys Are Back In Town” (1976)

JailbreakThinLizzyl

Let’s get this out of the way. This song is dumb. We all know it, and I won’t try to argue otherwise. It’s about a bunch of boys, boys who are decidedly back in town. They are at a bar called Dino’s, and they are going to get in a fight, and we’d better let ’em. This also, for some reason, makes us all think about that chick who used to dance a lot, and also the chick who got up and slapped Johnny’s face. Remember that? If not, here’s a reminder: we all fell about the place.

Dumb. But musically, this song is the weirdest, most fun thing. I’m not even referring to the chorus, which is what we all think of when we hear this song’s title. I’m referring to the verses, which are full of syncopated minor sixths and sus4s, and you may not know what those are, but let me assure you: they don’t generally show up in Aerosmith songs. They’re jazzy, and they’re a little abstract, and they’re not usually paired with power chords.

My favorite thing about this song is the guitar solo, which is technically two guitar solos at once, because the band’s two guitarists, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, are playing simultaneous, harmonized solos. (Belle and Sebastian later paid homage to the band and their harmonized solos with their song “I’m A Cuckoo”.)

As a whole, Jailbreak is a surprisingly cohesive and substantial record, with rockers (this one and the title track), gentle ballads (“Cowboy”), and midtempo songs that fall somewhere in between (“Running Back”). It’s a lot better than you’d expect, which is something of a backhanded compliment, but most definitely true. Give it a try.

Also: Thin Lizzy is Irish. For some reason, that blew my mind.

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