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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ani DiFranco: Puddle Dive


1) Names And Dates And Times; 2) Anyday; 3) 4th Of July; 4) Willing To Fight; 5) Egos Like Hairdos; 6) Back Around; 7) Blood In The Boardroom; 8) Born A Lion; 9) My IQ; 10) Used To You; 11) Pick Yer Nose; 12) God's Country.

Perfectly Imperfectly Vol. 2: same approach to melody, same approach to using words as bullets, looking more and more like they are coming off one and the same endless ammunition belt, same approach to arrangements — mostly acoustic, with a bit of this and a bit of that to keep down the boredom factor. Granted, the bits are numerous: she expands her acceptance of outside help, and the songs are now continuously embellished by violins ('4th Of July'), harmonicas ('Egos Like Hairdos', 'God's Country'), and bluesy pianos ('Back Around').

As far as I am concerned, however, Puddle Dive is Ani's lowest point at this stage in her career. Embellishments are fine, but she had pushed the formula as far as it could go already on her first album, and this is yet another retread, with nary a single song that would make a really fresh im­pression. Not a single account of the album that I have seen focuses on the music; the writers have little choice but to accept her channelling them into discussing her lyrical provocations, e. g. «wow, she sings about menstruation, not once, but twice!» She also sings about the freedom to pick one's nose (I'm a born nose-picker, myself, so I'm with her on that one, too), and, oh, yes, about the freedom to pick as many male (or female) partners as she wants, which is, by and large, the exact same thing, I guess.

There is also a lot of singing about life on the road and, consequently, about the inevitability of change and flash-in-the-pan impressions, and this all fits in well with the herky-jerky mood she creates by ripping into her guitar, but, unfortunately, it does not detract from the feeling that all of these songs were written just as herky-jerkily, on the spur of the moment, sometimes on a rather silly spur (e. g. the lullaby-style "na-na-na" chorus of 'Egos'). If you can catch that wave, or if you like songs about menstrual blood, or if you love her lambasting of the IQ test ("they taught me dif­ferent is wrong") in one of her spoken-word pieces, or if you simply cannot get enough of rou­sing feminist/human rights anthems and need a new one each morning at breakfast, Puddle Dive will satisfy; but the way I see this chronological stretch, it was a genuine puddle dive, and she would only start recovering on the next album. Thumbs down.

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