Thursday, May 12, 2011

30 Songs, 30 Days, Day Ten (2010 Edition): Last Word by Jane Siberry


There was a time I was totally in love with Canadian singer/songwriter Jane Siberry. I remember picking up The Speckless Sky on the same day I picked up Peter Gabriel's seminal album So while I was still in college, curious primarily because it was a pop music album that was being released by New Age Mongers Windham Hill...and absolutely loving the weird, quirky soundscapes and songs about maps and sending your lover off in a taxi and extremely large hats. It prompted me to seek out her two previous albums on Canadian labels and uncovering new bizarre songs about Waitresses and executives who kept grouper, she was the precursor of such female quirkmeisters as Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, willing to tackle serious things straight on but also not afraid to get totally odd. We are talking about a woman who, on her American major label debut, 1987's The Walking, compared a woman to a piece of furniture--and followed it up with Bound By The Beauty, arguably her most gonzo album ever, with songs where she gleefully sings about everything reminding her of her dog, trains, and how life can compare to a red wagon....

I followed her career and bought her albums for roughly ten years...and as a fan (let's not forget that 'fan' is short for 'fanatic') I overlooked the way her music was getting more and more inaccessible, being more and more obsessed with quasi-religious minutiae. I lost track of her shortly after the befuddling Teenager, a collection of songs she claimed to have written as a teenager.

Earlier this year, Siberry offered her fans her entire back catalogue for free on her website. I downloaded all the albums I was missing and....

God, her later stuff has strayed far, far afield for anything I originally liked about her. This song, taken from her 1999 album Lips, and its indicative of the mish-mosh of religious ideas modernized for modern listeners...and it's actually grating on my ears. It's hard for me to reassociate the woman singing now with the one who captivated me back in 1985, and after suffering through this and a number of her later numbers, I don't know if I want to. These newer compositions are actually making me doubt the pleasure I took in those earliest album of hers.

Incidentally, as bad as her late 90's stuff is, it pales in comparison to the two albums she recorded after she changed her name to Issa in 2006. It comes off as a parody of the stuff she recorded in the 90's.

I guess it goes to show you that, while I am always for an artist evolving and growing...I have to also accept that sometimes an artist will evolve and grow into something I won't care for.

From happier times, here's the first cut from that first Siberry album I bought (and in case you ever wondered what would happen in Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep ever had a baby...well, there you are....)

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