Theyre two unusual
Singer-songwriter Lisa Germano gracefully faces hard truths; Brooklyn's Mink Lungs get quirky
Hoosier singer-songwriter Lisa Germano has fashioned an impressive body of work since her formative days as John Mellencamp's fiddling sidekick back in the late '80s. With a breathy, emotive voice and a fearless knack for wading hip-deep into troubling subject matter, Germano is an overlooked gem by public standards, but her work has earned glowing praise from the likes of Neil Finn, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie.
Her latest excursion into the nether regions of the soul is 'Lullaby for Liquid Pig' (Imusic), and it's a rare bird, indeed, a heavenly sounding record about harrowing circumstances. This collection of songs represents an ongoing struggle with addiction (of various sorts), and it works both as a chronicle of one person's slipping reality and as uneasy intervention material.
From the opener, 'Nobody's Playing,' to 'Dream Glasses Off' to 'It's Party Time,' the album captures the addict's arc of self-deception, crushed hopes, retreat from humanity and inevitable plummet while avoiding platitudes and easy answers. 'Close your eyes/Not a pretty sight/And I'll tell you what/It's not going to be all right,' she sings in what's meant to be a reassuring voice in 'Into the Night.'
With sensitive instrumental help from Finn, Johnny Marr, Wendy Melvoin and co-producer Joey Waronker, Germano's music is fragile and dreamy, like floating on a cloud. Most of the time it's gentle and seductive, but sometimes the cloud turns black and the ensuing rain threatens to wash everything (and everybody) away.
'Don't give up your dream/It's really all you have/And I don't want to see you die,' Germano sings on the album's final cut,
'É To Dream.' Not a very comforting conclusion, really, but brutal honesty is usually the best policy when dealing with someone bent on their own destruction. And it certainly makes the best music.
Lisa Germano plays at 8 p.m. Friday, June 13, at the Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., 503-233-1994, $14.
I'll Take It
If standard-issue rock music has gotten too stale for today's restless bohemian, Mink Lungs, a quartet from Brooklyn, N.Y., should have you grinning and twitching in nothing flat. Like a zanier Guided by Voices or the Pixies during a playful, creative spurt, Mink Lungs make nifty-odd progressions and stick-in-your-brain choruses seem like child's play.
In addition to the catchiness factor, the level of musicianship displayed on songs such as 'Start From Scratch,' 'Bunny Bought a Spaceship' and 'The Secret Admirer,' reveals that these folks also are ace instrumentalists used to functioning in all kinds of far-flung rock environments. The band's lyrical sweep ranges from men's fashions to frat parties on fire to slobbery sex, which pretty much covers all the bases.
But there's more than just rock happening. Bassist-singer Jennifer Hoopes turns into a chilly jazz diva on 'Sensual Pleasure,' a song that swings in charmingly awkward fashion. 'Catch Me' is a sophisticated, continental pop song, which makes the transition into the peeling punk of 'Mrs. Lester' especially jarring. Weezer had a hit song about a sweater a few years ago, so there's no reason why the Lungs' 'Men In Belted Sweaters' shouldn't follow suit, because it's funnier and every bit as infectious.
One minor complaint: Using a wacky answering machine message as the lead-in to a song has been done to death.
As the album winds along, the band continually ups the ante on the weirdness scale. At the same time, you find yourself getting acclimated to this skewed, unpredictable world. Mink Lungs haven't reinvented the wheel by any means, but they have blown some fresh air into it, which ought to count for something.
Mink Lungs play at 9:30 p.m. Monday, June 16, at Blackbird, 3728 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-282-9949, $6.