I missed the concert that Alejandro Escovedo played at FitzGerald's last week, where he was supporting his excellent new album, the hard-rocking, raucous Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy). Yesterday, while flipping through some old CDs, I came across a much earlier Escovedo record—his second solo album, 1993's Thirteen Years—which reflects a very different side of his aesthetic. Back then Escovedo was transforming the rude power of protopunk into something even more devastating with the unlikely addition of chamber-music-style strings. He famously tackled the Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog" that way, but for me his own song "Baby's Got New Plans" delivers more emotional punch.
I previewed an Escovedo show when Thirteen Years was new, singling out a few lines from "Baby's Got New Plans." The song meditates on how single choices or mistakes in a relationship can trigger seismic upheavals: "The grand mistake was all it took / To burn away the flame / And cast a shadow on everything / That came before that day." Anyone who's lived through the collapse of love and trust can identify with that sentiment. More than two decades ago, the song made me shudder, and today its gorgeous, melancholy melody, sung with disarming tenderness and empathy, floods me with waves of sadness. I've just listened six times through "Baby's Got New Plans," with its forlorn string arrangement and firm but restrained backbeat, and now you can too—it's today's 12 O'Clock Track.