This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Juliana Hatfield – Made in China June 11, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.
Here’s an album I really love. It’s honest and gritty and rock too. Hatfield I mentioned recently in relation to the album she and Paul Westerberg, late of the Replacements, released early this year, but Made in China is a good twelve or so years old.
The tracks are neat, succinct, blasts of energy, none over 4.47 minutes long, building and twisting. But they’re also catchy as all hell. Great big choruses, occasional bursts of metal punk, almost Pixies-like distorted guitar, and then quieter bits. The album starts with clanging guitar chords on New Waif before cool detached vocals over strummed guitar and feedback. And the structures while seemingly deceptively straightforward are actually quite complex, songs twist through multiple parts, dissonant, melodic, instrumental. The near Sabbath like riff that opens What Do I Care is just perfect – the song itself a sort of refurbishing and upgrading of the Breeders for the 21st century. Or the near glam undertow of On Video (a particularly bitter lyric, relived by the sheer energy of her cathartic vocals). Rats in the Attic is more meditative, some have suggested it is closer to previous output, but it too isn’t averse to increasing the volume.
That the album seems to speak of earlier parts of her life – particularly those when she was effectively starting out making music in the mid to late 1980s and that she to some degree sings in that almost confessional, sometimes silly, but often quite moving ‘voice’ – lyrically seems to have thrown up some criticisms which frankly I don’t understand. It is as if she is not allowed to, as it were, relax or adopt a persona or investigate parts of her personality that may well still exist.
And I wonder if in part the criticisms are drawn from a more or less unconscious sexism. It’s difficult to envisage an album released by a male artist taking stock of parts of their past being quite as heavily critiqued (for some reason some REM comes to mind). Or is it that as a female singer/songwriter/guitarist she is expected to make supposedly more ‘sophisticated’ material?
In any case I think it remains remarkably fresh. Songs like Going Blonde see Hatfield twisting rock conventions neatly, moving from alternative to near metal to rock but in a way which somehow retains the power of all. A genuine classic. One of my favourites.
What Do I Care?
Rats in the Attic (Live, 2005)