Friday, January 25, 2008

Cat Power - Jukebox

Cat Power
Jukebox (Matador, 2008)
Grade: A-

Download: Cat Power - "Song To Bobby"

Update: "Aretha, Sing One For Me" taken down at the request of management.

Oh, Cat. You have some strange Power over me.

Okay, I won't make any more puns for the rest of the review, I pinky swear.

On Jukebox, Ms. Marshall leads listeners on a wild goose chase to try and find her identity. She starts us out in "New York," a cover of the Frank Sinatra classic. It's the perfect song to start off the album. In the lyrics, we're promised that her "vagabond shoes are longing to stray," which sets the tone for the whole album. From the stomp and bustle of her vision of "New York," we're promptly escorted into a smoky, cosmopolitan soul number reminiscent of Dusty Springfield. It's nearly impossible to recognize the song as a cover of Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man."

On "Silver Stallion," Marshall sells listeners the typical Western myth. The song, which is a cover of a Highwayman song, couples twanging guitars with images of dusty trails and angry devils. It's a beautiful song that combines the steely reserve to not be bound in one place with the sorrow of knowing that the singer is running from something.

And then almost immediately, we're back into a 60's lounge with soul music pumping out of the speakers. "Aretha, Sing One For Me" (originally by George Jackson) plays with the sensuousness of the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden" and the whiskey-tinged femininity of mid-60's girl groups.

The rest of the album bounces around in similar fashion. One moment, Marshall is sitting on a fence in the middle of nowhere chewing on a bit of hay, the next you can imagine her transplanted to the heart of the big city. There's something delicious about her musical homelessness on Jukebox. Even when switching between country and pop, Marshall's distinctive, husky voice serves as a centerpiece, focusing your attention on her. It's not as if Marshall is jumping styles and you're watching, it's as is she's guiding you on a tour of different pieces of her identity.

The beauty about this album is that it isn't a chance for Marshall to make us a mixtape/CD/mp3 dump. As she displays on the original tracks on this album, she's feeding us a little sample of what's to come. You Are Free (which came out in 2004 – how old does that make you feel?) established Cat Power as someone who could blur the line between folk and blues, a somewhat expected move after her last covers record.

The new songs on the album send a little bit of a mixed message on what we can expect form Marshall in the next few years. "I Believe In You" straddles riff rock, soul and stompy folk. It's awkward. It's not a bad song, but it doesn't come together right. It's like the channa masala I made for dinner the other night: all the pieces were there, but the chickpeas weren't quite done. It's a little chunky and unpleasant, even if it tastes good. It still needs some smoothing. "Song To Bobby," on the other hand, is very cool. It's an ode to Bob Dylan that comes across sounding like a Dylan cover. It's a beautiful song that weds folk and emotional, wailing blues vocals. If this is where she's headed in her writing, then we can expect great things in the years ahead.

Cat Power MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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Anonymous bradley said...

Nice review, major balls for posting those tracks too as I was asked to post nothing on my blog by Matador.

5:04 PM  
Blogger April said...

Really? We hadn't heard anything from Matador (as far as I know, at least). I guess we'll see what happens...

Thanks for the props, dude.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

April -
Nothing from Matador, so far. Perhaps WebSheriff doesn't work weekends? Maybe he has a Web underage drinking party he needs to break up? Or prevent Kevin Bacon from introducing web-dancing to his modest, morally upright small web town?

Also, Bradley, "Song To Bobby" was released as a free download from Matador themselves. Because of this, I tried to go back and re-post the mp3 from them, but they apparently took it down because it no longer works :( So I went with April's copy instead. :)

Again, thanks for the props.

11:30 AM  
Blogger April said...


You're going to hurt Web Sheriff's feelings:(

Inconsistently enforcing moratoriums on downloads is hard work. He routinely feels the sting of sweat upon his brow as he frantically clicks away trying to find elusive cyberperps. I will not stand for you mocking him!

Excuse me. After posting those tracks, I need to go self-flagellate to atone for my sins against the Web Sheriff.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! I thought you guys were my friends! Screw you all, you bastards!

(Skulks off and slams door shut)

Web Sheriff

2:34 PM  
Blogger April said...

Shit. I guess this means he won't be our DD anymore.

5:51 PM  
Blogger WEB SHERIFF said...

Protecting Your Rights on the Internet
Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
Fax 44-(0)208-323 8080

Hi April,

On behalf of Matador Records, many thanks for plugging Cat Power ... .. we would, however, kindly ask you NOT to post copies of "JUKEBOX" on your site ... .. the same applies to individual tracks from the new album, although we are pleased to announce that – as a gesture of goodwill to Cat Power’s fans - both “Song to Bobby” and “Metal Heart” have now been designated as promo tracks that fans and bloggers are allowed to host and post etc.

Many thanks in advance for your co-operation and, also, for respecting Matador’s and Cat Power’s wishes by removing your links to the pirate files in question.

As you will appreciate, this e-mail is written on a without prejudice basis and, as such, all of our clients' accumulated, worldwide rights remain strictly reserved : please excuse this required formality.



7:37 AM  

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