Blurring The Edges

Meredith Brooks

Capitol Records, 1997



The reason why I don't listen to rock music as much as, say, opera, is the whining. I get enough whining by reading my journal. In fact, I have more political commentaries between last December and today than all the Cranberries albums put together. Though lately I'm partial to the one-guitar folk rock scene I still lose interest when the talk turns to everyday injustice (being a Korean high school student, I'd need a double-CD).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This nuance is made obvious by over-stressing vocals to compensate for insincerity. It's very similar to the Whitney Houston School of Oversinging; "I Need" has a cleverly poppy lyric gimmick going on but it wouldn't do good in radio with that nasal lamenting all through. She doesn't sound as confident as she should when singing "I may crack but I'll never shatter" in "Shatter" but she sure tries faking it well.

"My Little Town" teeters on the edge of the usual driving-through-some-midwest-town-in-top-down-car, the ultimate radio rock cliche. Flattering herself in "Pollyanne", unconvincingly tragic in "Watched You Fall", awkward partying in "It Don't Get Much Better Than This" all simply don't work. She has the song in her head and, despite the earphones she's donning in the liner notes photo shots, she isn't listening to her actual singing.

She sounds much better when her vocal smearing is subdued. "Bitch" has a groove that refreshes the mind, body and soul without exaggerated expression and "Somedays" works with the acoustic guitars nicely underlaying her liquid-clear vocal. Unexpected but absolute sensuality in "What Would Happen" finally sounds as if she's using her insides to sing.

Unfortunately, this gives away to "Birthday" which signifies everything that's wrong with the album. Electric guitars and percussion that she has to concentrate on shouting over, thinking that the asinine lyrics about nitty-gritty first date inquiries would be enough. The two last tracks "Stop" and "Wash My Hands" do little to fix the damage done; more faking!

These tracks have underestimated the empathy of the listener. After all those years of performing in bands, Brooks doesn't know that her vocals can be engineered to sound louder; the sound is too rough for the private listener's silent room. Excuseable live; for now, spend your $15 on Paula Cole.

Rating: C+

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