Puddle Dive is something of a transition album for DiFranco: she's (gasp!) smiling on the cover, she's got accompaniment on nearly every track, her creed is clearly stated for the first time ("I sing sometimes like my life is at stake / 'Cause you're only as loud as the noises you make" [on "My IQ"]), and there are even some songs here that find joy, even if it's just for a moment ("Names and Dates and Times," "4th of July"). There's also, to a much greater extent than on previous albums, the frenetic guitar strum (accomplished with taped-on plastic fingernails) that is one of the hallmarks of DiFranco's maturing sound. It's the strum that complements DiFranco's stop-start, breathy vocals so well, and the combination of the two has always served to distinguish her from the hordes of folkies on the coffeehouse circuit (that is, if DiFranco's tattoos, piercings, and haircuts hadn't already done the trick). On Puddle Dive her maturing song craft (check out the bluesy "Back Around") and increasing consistency put her even further ahead of the pack. --Randy Silver
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"I won't wait for you to wonder..."
Pharoah S. Wail | Inner Space | 11/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As with anything, opinions differ. When I read one or two previous reviews that called this Ani's most annoying album, or that the songs here are great because they are about nothing but she makes great songs out of those nothing moments anyway... wow for a minute I was thinking I must have clicked on the wrong album.
I think Puddle Dive is one of her best albums. Certainly it has several of my favorite Ani tunes thus far. Willing To Fight isn't even remotely about nothing. It's about the difference between paying lip-service to certain things when it's convenient to do so (or ignoring the problems completely because you don't feel they affect you), and actually doing something about a problem. Of course that description sounds rather dry and preachy, but the song isn't at all. It's one of her best melodies. Or if you're just one of those soundbyte-types of people, there are more than a couple lyrics from just this song alone that could be lifted out to stand by themselves just as incredibly powerful sentences. Willing To Fight is, for me, one of the definitive Ani songs. It's everything that she is. It's everything I wish more people were.
As for other songs here, had Ani ever been a stage-guest of the Grateful Dead's during her middle-early years, which coincided with their last years, Anyday would have been my number one choice for Ani and them to perform. Such a softly powerful, emotional song. Garcia didn't have too much (instrumentally) to say on the big jam tunes anymore by that time, but he could still occasionally work magic on the ballads like So Many Roads, To Lay Me Down, Wharf Rat, etc...
To hear Ani leading the Dead through Anyday, with Lesh behind her, and Garcia's delicate late-years ballad playing in there could have been magical had he been having a good night.
Blood in the Boardroom, as has been said before, will certainly be a little too direct for some people, but I love it. Even if the lyrics bother you, still listen to her guitar playing. At this point in her career, this was one of her most rocking tunes so far. She is such a great, vibrant ryhthm-lead player.
Used To You... another favorite that I wish she would dust off and perform in concert again. This will certainly sum up some of the relationships you have had (or known of), although I don't know which side of the relationship you were.
For lyrical depth and emotional power, as well as the continued growth of her aggressive, percussive guitar style, this is another of the essential Ani albums.
Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!
Danielle M. Nicholls | 01/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I LOVE this album! Ani is really brilliant and her writing inspires me so much. There is a lot of diversity on this particular record. Some soft beautiful songs like "Anyday" or "Back Around" and then there are some sprawling crazy acoustic numbers like "Born A Lion" and "Egos Like Hairdos"...all great! I love Ani's whole Righteous Babe Record label. Such great music! Check it out today!"