ANI DIFRANCO: OUT OF RANGE (1994)
1) Buildings And Bridges; 2) Out Of Range (acoustic); 3) Letter To A John; 4) Hell Yeah; 5) How Have You Been; 6) Overlap; 7) Face Up And Sing; 8) Failing Is Like This; 9) Out Of Range (electric); 10) You Had Time; 11) If He Tries Anything; 12) Diner.
I did not notice any new lyrical subjects of any significance on this record; this would mean that either there are none indeed or that one needs to be a professional Francoist to prove this wrong. However, on the musical plane Out Of Range is a little more diversified than Puddle Dive, bringing back occasional rhythm sections, occasional brass and accordeon, occasional piano, and, first time ever, even an electric guitar arrangement — on the title track, which was deemed important enough to state its point twice, acoustic first, electric later.
Since we get to compare, it is funny how the electric track is, expectedly, punchier than the acoustic one, but how it also downplays Ani's technique — the fast-picked notes, very distinct and edgy and evocative (think tiny little brain impulses flashing on and off) at the unplugged stage, all mingle together in one jangly blur when amplified, pretty much throwing the listener's attention off the melody altogether. Which does not mean that the electric version is superfluous or cheap — it has its own goals of an anthemic nature.
On a couple of tracks, she goes for a smokier, jazzier atmosphere ('How Have You Been', 'Diner'), and it works out fine; her playing and singing styles are, after all, very much jazz in nature, and mixing them with suitable arrangements is quite stylish. But the backbone of the album is still acoustic balladeering, which is, at this point, really only for the dedicated Francoist; there is nothing I have to say about these songs that do not move me in the least because each one is so goddamn predictable.
Oh, I said there are no new lyrical subjects — actually, I was a little off there, because, with 'Diner', I think that Ani has written her first song in which she has actually confessed to — get this — liking a human being of the opposite sex. In her own inimitable way, of course ("I think you're the least fucked up person I've ever met, and that may be as close to the real thing as I'm ever gonna get"), and with her usually bleeding honest — a.k.a. «physiologically obsessed» — style of complimenting ("I miss listening to you in the bathroom, flushing the toilet, blowing your nose"), but still, a positive reference to a son of Adam that almost made me see some hope for myself at the end of the tunnel. Then the song ended on the cheerful note of "Is that a dick in your pocket or are you trying to record me?", and the ray of light was gone. But still, it was nice while it lasted.
It seems like the «classic» number from the record is 'Buildings And Bridges', most frequently played in concert and making it to compilations. It does sound, along with the title track, like it is making a grand sweeping statement, but the message is absolutely the same as in 'I'm No Heroine': "What doesn't bend, breaks". Well... if it is all about bending, where is the big MTV video hit, Ms. DiFranco? Rings as hollow to me as everything else on the same subject. When you build yourself up to this tough self-assertive personality status, no one is going to believe in your vulnerability. Just have your pie and be done with it. Thumbs down, except for the funky-jazzy stuff, which suffices to beat Puddle Dive, but is too scarce to «bend» the impression nevertheless.