Thursday, January 04, 2007

More at stake

Shellac on a hand, Jim Dine
Shellac on a hand, Jim Dine

Say What You Like - Jar

"Say What You Like" enters unassuming: a muted, circular round of keys, a demure voice, measured, recitative. The song shares an aesthetic kinship with Cat Power, and most pointedly with "Maybe Not." But its spiritual ancestor is Liz Phair's "Divorce Song" -- in the cruel, slow unraveling, in the offhand unkind words and ungenerous thoughts that slide through open hands and spool at unsteady feet. What's left is mirthless sarcasm and false acquiescence, the (barely) going along to get along:

Say what you like, I won't complain
I'll bite my tongue, I will refrain
I will not correct your grammar or pronunciation just this once.

This would be a good song if all it offered were deft verbal lacerations and a deceptively simple (but really very artful and dynamically played) arrangement. But "Say" is moving, even devastating, because Jar -- performing name of a Bristol, UK songwriter/musician named Jen -- understands when to drop the defenses. It starts happening about 1:20 in. The bass line blusters down the keyboard, octave by octave, and Jen's voice lows dusky and hurt: There's more at stake then there's been before/Either that or I no longer care anymore. It's a respite from casual cruelty, a humane wave of white flag. The end is nigh, and sometimes -- this time, certainly -- the only words worth saying are it's over.

Jar's Myspace


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