Viva Satellite was Todd’s 3rd and final album for MCA. His debut effort had attracted attention because of the singles Alright Guy and the hilarious Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues but Step Right Up & Viva Satellite did not find much of an audience. He had not quite found his musical niche as he would in the years that followed. He has refered to this as his “Tom Petty” phase in the past. It is true that compared to his later work that this period found him trying to capture a more mainstream rock sound. The record kicks off with “Rocket Fuel”, “Yesterdays And Used To Be’s” and a high energy cover of the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” and although some of his lyrical talent peeks out in Yesterdays, these 3 songs are songs crafted to a more mainstream crowd. I love this version of The Joker, which carries a little more musical edge than the original does. But the high points of this album come on 2 other songs that show more than just a glimpse into the hippie troubadours future acid folk song-smithing. “Can’t Complain” is vintage Todd at his satirical best. The song questions where the narrator fits into society with all of it rules a & regulations, which is at odds with his hippie sensibilities. Todd addresses this with his common sense approach, that leaves you both smiling at his clever lyrics and shaking your head with frustration. Thru it all he keeps insisting that he really can’t complain, although he really is and concludes with one of Todd’s gems of verse with ….I just need one last chance, you know I won’t get caught….I gotta make my last stand, this time I can’t be bought…then again on the other hand, how much have you got? Classic Snider. Later he closes the record with his country tonk ode to white trash.. Double Wide Blues. He serves as our commentator inside the world of the people occupying one of America’s last bastions of freedom..the trailer park. But the difference being, of course, that Todd does not tell their story from a bully pulpit of conceit. He recounts the events as though the occupants of this white trash heaven are his peers and there in lies the magic that is Todd Snider. If you don’t get that, then you will probably never fully comprehend the point of view that Todd tells his stories from. While Viva Satellite is a detour from the path that his first two albums were leading him down it is not without its merits.
Other Todd Snider on this blog: #155 Todd Snider – Peace Queer (2008)