Cat Power

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What Would The Community Think

Cat Power - What Would The Community Think ©1996 Matador Records
1. In This Hole
2. Good Clean Fun
3. What Would The Community Think
4. Nude As The News
5. They Tell Me
6. Taking People
7. Fate Of The Human Carbine
8. King Rides By
9. Bathysphere
10. Water & Air
11. Enough
12. The Coat Is Always On

It has been written that listening to Cat Power is akin to listening to a close friend lose her mind. Without irony, without sarcasm, and without pretention, there's nothing between Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) and her audience except the purity of unbridled confession; the shock of burdening honesty. The lore of eleven-minute Cat Power shows tailspinning and disintegrating under the oppressive weight of performance anxiety isn't exactly an affront to these inferences. Chan Marshall, the Andy Partridge of indie rock? A sensitive soul and searing artistic talent hidden beneath the wafer-thin veneer of a lousy salesperson?

The evidence seems to be pointing in that direction. What Would the Community Think streamlines lonesome, intimate, occasionally disturbing and often sublime chunks of think to an orchestra of silence and quivering dynamics. Marshall's voice employs neither fake Pavement-esque ironic botchery nor does it operate under any Streisandian pretenses. Rather, she elucidates her stark words through a still-lake clear and unflashy channel that befits the beautiful, intensely expressive simplicity of the music. Often trembling, at times trailing-off, her voice on the terminally strange "The Coat is Always On" is a piercing, crying plea for understanding. When she sings on "King Rides By", 'I do not want to scare you anymore', her soul is laid out so bare we almost have to look away. Ambiguous stories of traumatic death ("In This Hole", "Water & Air"), alienation ("What Would the Community Think", "Fate of the Human Carbine"), love ("King Rides By") and family dysfunction ("The Coat is Always on") are occasionally fleshed out by a rhythm section consisting of Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley and Half Japanese's Tim Foljhan, but generally function on Marshall's own personal musical methods: a guitar, some chords, lots of silence, lots of time to think, and a songwrting voice marked by tension, disquiet, and soul-cleansing honesty.

Which is not to say that What Would the Community Think is as bleak, desolate and grey as the stony landscape pictured on the backcover. Outside of an interesting proclivity for water-symbology, there is something of a wry sense of humor pervading these songs. "They Tell Me", somewhat of a backhanded ode to the bluesmen of her native Georgia, she sings, 'Maybe if I pray to the lord above/I'll get some sleep/But the lord don't give a shit about me'. The puzzling and provocative refrain of "Nude as the News" declares, 'Jackson, Jesse, I've got a son in me/And he's related to you'. Although comparisons can be made to the quirky and unconventional indie songcraft of Helium, Cat Power offers a kind of brooding warmth similar that of Elliott Smith, but less touchy-feely, more cautious, and more apprehensive.

What Would the Community Think is Cat Power's third overall full-length and first for Matador. It is not, of course, music that leaps out and grabs you by the throat. Rather, it's like the Jesus picture on the mantle that stands aloof and eyeballs you as you move throughout the room. Deeply personal music, that will find you, for introspective moods.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 10/2000

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