Perfect Vision

Thalia Zedek Band

Thrill Jockey, 2021

REVIEW BY: John Mulhouse


Thalia Zedek may still be best known for her work with Live Skull at the end of the 1980s, and particularly for the band she formed afterward with Codeine guitarist Chris Brokaw, Come. In a world somewhat improved from the one we currently occupy, Zedek would be known much more widely in her own regard. While Come worked some of the same territory as Live Skull and Sonic Youth, they were also a much blues-ier proposition. So it wasn’t all that surprising when Zedek stripped everything back for the incredible torch-song/Cohen/Cave vibe of her first solo album, Been Here and Gone, which was released 20-plus years ago (?!), and has been recently reissued on vinyl. Since then she’s been working a sort of middle ground between those two guises with a very high level of success. Her newest effort Perfect Vision, released with some longtime collaborators as the Thalia Zedek Band, is strong enough to be recommended as an entry point for those unfamiliar. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Right off the bat, song one, “Cranes,” deals in the kind of ragged, tuneful melancholia that is among Zedek’s hallmarks and strengths. Zedek’s lyrics typically move between our relationship to each other individually and our relationship politically, often in a single verse, and this track is no different, expressing the kind of regret-mixed-with-persistence you might feel swaggering in the corners of Exile On Main Street. Vocally, you may detect some similarities in tone between Zedek and former Geraldine Fibbers frontwoman Carla Bozulich.

Following “Cranes,” the album downshifts slightly, bringing in the additional instrumentation Zedek has been using for years—piano, pedal steel, and, on this record, viola/cello by Alison Chesley, who was in Verbow and has accompanied Bob Mould. “Overblown” is a sparse, pleading song about the destruction caused by intolerance, with the personal-is-political vibe continuing on the next track, “Queasy,” a spiky, up-tempo bash.

Side two kicks off much as side one, with “From The Fire,” a wonderful piece of melancholia with plenty of space to breathe and move. On that note, it should be mentioned that Zedek’s records always sound warm and open. There’s no loudness war raging here, nor obvious compression to speak of. Which is to say, this record, like her others, is easy on the ears.     

For my money, the propulsive “Revelation Time” is the album’s highpoint, with its shifting refrain stated initially as: “Wherever you are, somewhere else is always better.” The song reflects the kind of internal/external dissatisfaction we’ve all been steeped in over the past couple years. 

Things slow down again and the strings come out for the last two tracks, in which Zedek seems to express her sense that things might not work out for the best, even if it’s not—contrary to a straight reading of the album’s title—easy to articulate just exactly what is happening. Hope is definitely flickering but not yet extinguished. And who can’t relate to that in 2022?

Thalia Zedek has been producing music with honesty and heart since the 1980s. I’d say anything with her name on it is worth your time, and Perfect Vision is a good place to begin.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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