Monday, September 19, 2005

No Hits 9.19.05

For those unfamiliar, Freakwater occasionally rate a mention as one of the founders of alt-country. While it's not the No Hits place to argue exact genre paternity (or it's a mission I refuse to accept), they've never really made sense anywhere. They're amateurs in the sense that they put out albums and tour on a hobbyist's schedule, punk in releasing "loose, imperfect" recordings where the mistakes are among the highlights, country in driving songs about plebian concerns with vocal harmony, and, undeservedly so, indie in record sales.

Personally, I've always thought that poetry was their problem: they actually write it. I'm not talking Westerburgian word play, Malkmus-like (the SYF spectre rises again!) Ginsberg-like riffing, or Sufjan storytelling, but actual multi-layered, lightly-carrying-and-expanding-a-metaphor-throughout songcraft. I guess doing something well-made with both words and music without starring in a movie renders you old-timey and ill-fitting.

I don't mean to make Freakwater sound like work, because Thinking of You, their new seventh album, is anything but. Cathy Irwin, Janet Bean (vocals, guitars, unparalled stage banter) and Dave Gay (bass, cigarettes) have actually talked up the arena rock choruses and I hear danceable numbers ( is streaming songs from their latest and the back catalog as well; in true Freakwater fashion, this fan site makes every attempt to be complete, is unofficial (as in not run by their wonderful label), and is mentioned prominently on the CD packaging; why can't they be uncharitable and on message like everyone else?). In the past wry wit has been the main source of levity, but ever since a cover of "Little Red Riding Hood," complete with howls, was released on a Bloodshot compilation, there's been out and out fun. I'm not sure if it's the members of Califone that play on the album or a general, further, sing-while-the-city-burns abandonment of hope, but Thinking is, god-forbid, entertaining and, as always, lovely and moving.

Little Red Riding Hood (mp3) - Freakwater


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