close your eyes
 
[music, albums]

XXVIII: 1998 Cat Power - Moon Pix


Cat Power - Moon Pix

The other albums
Most people voted for Massive Attack's Mezzanine in the poll. Beforehand I thought it could well be my #1 of 1998 too. When I relistened to it though I was extremely disappointed. Only the first song Angel which sounds like the devastation of a bomb dropped in the dark (see also here) gave me the chills, the rest seemed totally flat and uninspired. I don't think my impression is due to over-exposure. There is something about this album which really puts me off. I feel that the density of the sound and sample layers hides an intrinsic emptiness.

An album which surprised me was Nada Surf's The Proximity Effect. This kind of power-pop still sounds extremely fresh. Lots of great songs (esp. Mother's Day with insightful and honest lyrics on rape to which I hadn't listened to before). Nada Surf are the better Weezer who come from LA as well and made similar tuneful good vibrations rock music. At least on their first release.

Almost a new discovery was the Silver Jews album American Water. D.C. Berman's funny, eloquent, poetic lyrics and his deadpan vocal delivery plus the laidback vibe of his simple but enchanting tunes make the Silver Jews the better Pavement in my book. Though I have to admit that this is the only Silver Jews I know. Steve Malkmus contributions in terms of singing and songwriting give this album more variety and make it even more loveable. My personal number three from 1998.

Next was Mark Hollis self-titled solo release which was #2 (ex aequo) in the poll. I hear the cries of a wounded deer set to a sparse almost classical instrumentation with lots of woodwind. This man knew when to stop making music. Only silence could top the brittle beauty of this great record which uses the human voice as an instrument and uses pauses and silence in an intriguing way to amplify the effect of the music. Only my #2 as I don't have the same personal relation to it as to my 1998 fave.

This album
On November, 20th, 1998 there was a concert at the Frankfurt University (KoZ) where I saw Cat Power for the first time. There were three acts that night. It started with Quasi (Sam Coomes on keyboards and Janet Weiss who joined Sleater-Kinney later on drums) who made a lot of noise for a duo. The last performer was Elliott Smith. He seemed lonely and lost. In between there was Chan Marshall and two guys from the Dirty Three. Jim White on drums and Mick Turner on guitar. It was probably the most mesmerizing set I have ever attended. Chan hid behind her long pony and sang like in trance. She wasn't there, she was in her own world but it worked out. Mick Turner provided the connection to mother earth with his slow and thoughtful guitar play. I couldn't avert my eyes from Chan's long, brown hair and I was totally taken by her singing. Immediately after the show I bought their record Moon Pix which they had recorded in Australia earlier that year.

The first song, American Flag is the one I like less on the record. Apparently Jim and Chan had been waiting for Mick in the studio for four hours and had repeated playing that song over and over. I find it a little painful to listen to and it isn't as relaxed as the rest of the album.

With He Turns Down everything changes. The smooth, acoustic guitar and a dreamy flute are the perfect canvas for Chan's wonderful expressive voice. Nick Drake would have loved this.

No Sense is even slower. Chan sings

We made no sense
No sense
We had no sex

and despite the seemingly awkward pun it does touch me. This doesn't sound right but the song does, I swear to you.

Say is a little on the dull side. It features some thunder and it is okay in the course of things. Preserving the slack atmosphere.

The guitar on Metal Heart sounds like the morning dew on the rose petal of Chan's voice. Without the kitsch this description might enunciate.

Back of Your Head has a simple, innocent, lullabyish tune and lyrics hinting to an ominous experience Chan Marshall had with the other sex when she was much younger.

Moonshiner is a slomo blues on drinking. Romanticizing booze. I have problems to listen to the lyrics. I hope Chan has them too to sing this song. It's easier to just listen to the tune.

You May Know Him is the most religious of the songs. I see it as an interlude but it could well be more.

The grave piano ballad Colors and the Kids follows next. But is has some life-affirming lyrics

It must just be the colors
And the kids that keep me alive
Cause the music
Is boring me to death

Cross Bones Style is the most hypnotic song. Again it juxtaposes a light, almost bright melody with lyrics alluding to a life-shattering experience.

Peking Saint, a short lo-fi guitar ballad finishes this album off. Not the greatest of all songs but a fitting end for this wonder of intimate, personal songwriting.

Further reading:

  • Lyrics
  • Guardian article on Meltdown festival by Patti Smith where Chan Marshall will perform Robert Mapplethorpe's The Coral Sea with Kevin Shields on June, 22nd (sold-out, I think)

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part XXVIII was this post.


 





 
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