Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, Pop, Rock
Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power, has created an album, Moon Pix, that somehow manages to be both complex and difficult as well as stark and spacious. It's an interesting contradiction mirrored in Marshall's vocal and lyric... more »
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Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power, has created an album, Moon Pix, that somehow manages to be both complex and difficult as well as stark and spacious. It's an interesting contradiction mirrored in Marshall's vocal and lyrical talents; her voice soars and croons, sometimes trading melodies with a wandering flute line, while her lyrics are powerful, inscrutable, and fiercely intimate. Two of the Dirty Three evoke a subtle instrumental landscape upon which she wanders, a place less haunting than haunted; specters of lost friends, lost loves, and unrealized dreams abound. There is beauty here, but the kind of beauty found in the crushed shell of a bird's egg or a cemetery in fall. Not an easy listen, but a necessary one. --Tod Nelson
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Mythos aside, a few good songs
byrner | The South | 08/20/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Among fans, MoonPix holds a kind of mystique. Stories get told. One goes something like this: Chan Marshall, retired from the music industry, awakens one stormy night after a bad dream. In an agitated fugue state, she furiously writes the whole of MoonPix in one sitting. The following day (still driven by night demons mind you) she calls her surprised record label and sweet talks an executive into sending her to Australia--land of the Dingo, the Aborigine, the Cane Toad--to record a moody batch of pathos ridden devil songs. The result is a spooky, haunted album, by a half-crazy girl. It goes on to be a notable success for Cat Power.
Well,... that's the story anyway.
Fans seem to like that myth a lot. Maybe they overpraise the album because of it? Rate it highly, despite its many flaws? All I can tell you is what I hear in Moon Pix. One thing is certain, the album is a giant leap forward over the earliest Cat Power albums. The singing, production, arrangements, and songs are all considerably better than those on Dear Sir and Myra Lee. But then those early albums set the bar so awfully low that even vast improvement still leaves us with only an okay album. On the up side, the songs "Metal Heart", "Cross Bones Style," and "No Sense" are great songs, best appreciated independently of the rest of the album. I like the direction Chan Marshall and her band are heading with these songs. The musicianship is well improved over previous works (though that's not much of a claim, considering the previous works). More importantly, the band avoids the endless Sonic Youth dissonance that marred the first albums.
The rest of Moon Pix could still benefit from quite a bit more polishing. All the songs share the same or similar sounds. Similar chord changes, tempo, key; and let's just admit it, Chan Marshall can't really play any instrument. Any grade schooler with a couple of years of piano lessons could play piano with more authority than she does. The same is true of her two or three chord guitar work. She fingerpicks a few cowboy chords and occasionally bumbles even on those. In the very first song "American Flag," there's a clumsy moment a minute and a half into it where she messes up and gets out of sync with the drum machine. What's odd to me is she seems to be surrounded by much better musicians. One wonders why she doesn't just stick to singing and let one of the other guys handle the heavy lifting?
Previous reviewers have mentioned how this is good music for a rainy day--indeed, there are thunder sounds on "Say". A nice touch. I could see how you might like the continuous monodrone sound of this record if you're looking for ambient music to serve you on a down day when you're feeling reflective. On the other hand, if you're trying to fight off sadness, laziness, or mood swings, this is not the album to put on. Take "Moonshiner" for example; it's heroin music--sluggish, lethargic, hypnotic--written for the loser, the loner, the addict, the drunk. It wouldn't be out of place on a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album.
Not all the songs are complete downers, nor do they all neccesarily contain deep mystical insights from a crazy hell-haunted woman. It is true there are a few important songs on this record, spooky and beautiful enough to justify repeated listening. But taken as a whole album Moon Pix sounds endlessly droning and burned out. For me, too much so. One critic (when commenting on how problematic Cat Power albums tend to be) said Chan's "probably an EP artist at heart". I think that's about right. With the exception of The Greatest, none of her albums are really able to sustain the momentum of her best individual songs.
If you're new to Cat Power or are trying to figure out which album to buy first, buy the most recent albums: The Greatest (if you're into R&B), You Are Free (if you're looking for indie rock), or The Cover Record (if you like folksy blues). Each are superior to Moon Pix--though none carry the kind of mythos that has made Moon Pix so famous. Perhaps one day Matador will release a "best of" album. Chan Marshall is great when you can just to get to those wonderful (but sparsely distributed) jewel songs that are buried somewhere on each album."
Raw underwelming talent
IRate | 08/25/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ms. Marshall always seemed to get an undue amount of credit as an indie female songwriter, when in fact she is usually guilty of just highly embellishing numbingly simple songs. On rare occasions her attempts at a haunting minimalism by way of undereducated musician do work, and with this being one of her earliest discs we do have a few seamless tracks. Roughly half of the album however retains her signature trickery of which yields little more then boring songs dragged thru her lo-fi production in attempts at rawness."