Most fans likely already know the backstory about this, Juliana Hatfield’s umpteenth album: the Chump election left her, like many of us, bewildered, dismayed and angry. But while some folks took their outrage to the streets, or Facebook, she took hers to the recording studio.
To quote from the press release:
“All of these songs just started pouring out of me. And I felt an urgency to record them, to get them down, and get them out there.” She booked some time at Q Division studios in Somerville, Massachusetts near her home in Cambridge and went in with a drummer (Pete Caldes), an engineer (Pat DiCenso) and fourteen brand-new songs. Hatfield produced and played every instrument other than drums—bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals. From start to finish—recording through mixing—the whole thing took a total of just twelve and a half days to complete.
The result reminds me of Neil Young’s 2006 Living With War, which (for those unaware) was an album-long protest against President George W. Bush and his nonsensical Iraq War. It made a pointed statement, made it well, divided fans (some supported Bush), and faded from public consciousness by the time the presidential primary season kicked into gear a year-and-change later. Its shelf life was relatively short, in other words, due to the directness of many of the lyrics. (That said, “Flags of Freedom” and “Families” sound as fresh to my ears as ever.)
I could go on and on (and on) with my thoughts about Pussycat, but instead I’ll say that I haven’t wavered from the sentiment I shared in my review of Juliana’s Philly concert: It’s excellent. Fans (new and old) who share her outlook on politics and life will thoroughly enjoy it, though some may be put off by the blunt imagery in some songs. It’s a claws-out affair that draws blood and trades, at times, in the profane (as this Paste Magazine review details). There’s an energy and drive to the performances that’s as palpable as the passion dripping from her vocals; and the lyrics, with a few exceptions, are soaked with anger, indignation and bitterness.
I don’t think many of the songs will age well, but that’s beside the point. They’re about today, this moment, and processing the un-processable. (Is that even a word?) They fill the need for catharsis now.
My favorite song, as I also mentioned in that concert review, isn’t one of the political numbers, but “Wonder Why.” In an interview with Consequence of Sound, she talks about how she sometimes seeks refuge in the memories of her youth. While that escape may be partially fueled by the tumultuous times we find ourselves in, it’s also something that comes with growing old(er). It’s normal to look back.
For those interested in checking out the album as a whole:
To buy it on CD, vinyl or cassette: head over to the American Laundromat page.
And, finally, head over to Paste Magazine to see Juliana’s acoustic takes on two of the new songs, plus one from her Minor Alps project.