Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is Todd Snider’s inspirational album.
"I want to inspire people," Snider says. "I want to inspire them to leave home, to do things traditionally considered wrong. If you listen to my record and vandalize your school, godspeed. If you listen to my record and punch your stepdad, thank you, you’ve made me feel better about what I do. I don’t believe in the American dream, and family values can suck my asshole’s balls."
Snider says this while smiling, because he says most things while smiling, because he knows family values are unlikely to do such a thing, and because he’s on the happy back end of happy hour at a favorite East Nashville bar. He’s laughing but not necessarily kidding, and Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is anything but a nice, folk/Americana troubadour album.
It’s not a nice anything.
It is jagged, leering, lurching and howling, and filled with unhappy endings both experienced and intimated: "It ain’t the despair that gets you, it’s the hope," he sings in the album-closer, "Big Finish." That Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is also roaringly funny is tribute to Snider’s unique sensibilities, and to his standing as what Rolling Stone magazine calls "America’s sharpest musical storyteller." Anguish without laughter is boring, like intensive care without morphine, and Snider has never been within 100 miles of boring. Also, he didn’t earn the attention, friendship and fandom of American musical giants like Kris Kristofferson and John Prine by writing mopey protest songs.