(Ye Olde Records)
Here’s a comparison that probably doesn’t get made very often: Juliana Hatfield
and Lou Reed. Certainly the ’90s indie-popper and the ‘60s modal-rocker started
from very different places, and that doesn’t just mean Boston
versus New York.
But as they aged — no longer a gamine, Hatfield is now a how’d-that-happen 44
— the similarities have increased. The title track of the singer-guitarist’s
latest album is a Reed-like song-essay, wordy and chorus-free, with
conversational near-rhymes punctuated by spiky guitar.
Hatfield has said that “There’s Always Another Girl” was inspired by
Lindsay Lohan, but there’s more than a little autobiography (spiritual, if not
actual) in the text. “People love it when a beautiful woman
self-destructs,” she sings. “But beautiful boys get away with so
much.” The pretty-girl trap and bad-boy misbehavior are longtime Hatfield
themes, but she’s rarely delivered them with such directness and authority.
Admittedly, the song is not altogether typical of the album. Elsewhere,
Hatfield more closely follows the model of her most popular work, with
multi-tracked vocals and hooky arrangements to boost the pop quotient.
“Sex and Drugs” and “Stray Kids” aren’t as catchy as, say,
“Spin the Bottle,” but would have fit comfortably on one of
Hatfield’s early-’90s solo sets. But the most striking material deliberately
cracks the mold to make music that’s less immediately appealing but more
provocative. On the opening “Change the World,” Hatfield sighs,
“I was going to change my ways/But I haven’t changed my ways.” In
fact, her most heartfelt new stuff shows that she has.
DOWNLOAD: “There’s Always
Another Girl,” “Change the World” MARK JENKINS