Friday, September 06, 2002

Seana Carmody's 'Struts & Shocks'

"Struts & Shocks" is a well chosen title for this collection of songs. They are whispered teases and confidences. Scolds, observations and jokes. Bits of conversation between good friends and lovers, on the whys and hows of relationship.

They are not themed around car parts, although there's at least one auto allegory in here. Nor are these histronic, angst-driven, obvious narrations, like those we hear daily, from the purveyors of the monoculture. The listener is given license for interpretation.

Seana's lyrics reside just barely subsurface, as winks, nods and ah-sos. Nestled, garden potatoes. Carefully cultivated, yet fecund, ripe and natural. Yummy. So, although printing lyrics may be pretentious, I, for one, would like to read the full menu, you know? Maybe a website can deal with that shortly.

Always known for her spare and delicate vocals, I have to say her guitar playing has also never sounded better. Adam Brilla, bassist, also adds some expressive guitar work to several tracks. Orrin Anderson's drumming is tastefully deferential to the songs, with a standout Ringo moment, or two, on "Stay Awake," the final track.

Breaking down the tracks, I don't hear a throwaway in the lot. Besides, the whole disc is a short listen. Some songs are barely 2 minutes long. That usually reeks of short blasts of retro power pop - thankfully, that's not the case here. If the lyric is over, so is the song. I like that.

The first 4 songs are an impressive sequence of bad/good/bad/good relationship tunes. "Rocket Out Of Time" uses a shimmering guitar and schoobie doobie wah wah chorus to give lift to a song that may be about clueing in a jilted, slightly tipsy, ex-lover. Like speaking to an indie stanley kowlawski, wailing 'why me?' in the snow out on your front sidewalk. Next up are "Mighty Bull" (with a great lazy guitar reprise, closing this gem) and "Tailgate" (uh-huh, car). My current favorite, "Sidewalk," follows. What a nice whoozy, summer-spacey, walking-around-in-love sorta song. How can you deny a line like: "Give me a secret, from your mouth to mine?"

"I Can Troll" (I can troll, I control) is a short tune, followed by yet another shortie - "Lazy Island." 'See the lazy island, where nobody's free.' Like reggae pop, the lyrics swim counter to the melodic current. Next up is "Tornadoes." Starting-out like some sort of soft acoustic madrigal heard in a late-night bodega, it ultimately crescendos into a gothic spire of near Procol Harum dizziness. Gaudi-esque? si! Her SyrupUSA phase is most noticable here.

"Deirdre" is a soft plea and firmly in Lee Hazzelwood territory. "Smoking In The Dark," fading in a bowl of FX, is followed by a wonderful closing track. "Stay Awake" is all too much & tomorrow never knows, confidently in the Beatle key. Whereas those guys once erected dayglo billboards for the masses, here Seana seems to be quietly speaking a similar message of optimisum, of self preservation, to just one listener. A plea not to fade away. Whether it's about a relationship, or a suggestion, an insistence, on life, this is a song you could play to your chemically impaired acquaintences. Or, maybe it's just about staying up real late.

Seana and band have clearly been working on their suspension. This ride is smooth, comfy and satisfying.


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