Neither short nor sharp, but
“Love’s song lingered on the lips
of other singers,” Michelle Shocked sings on the opening track on
her latest album. “But love’s song was never in my key.” With
that those simple lines, the Texan troubadour acknowledges 20 years
of going her own way, from the ups of Arkansas Traveler to the downs
of To Heaven U Ride. But Soul of My Soul is an album about romance
busted up and romance thought hard about, so “Love’s Song,”
with its gospel airs and shuffling pace, acts as a promise that what
follows will not be typical love songs.
And “Other People” certainly isn’t.
A spare tune with a quietly pained chorus, it is sung “citizen to
country, not woman to man.” Yes, it’s a love song about
patriotism and dissent, with the singer done wrong by a wayward
nation, but the metaphor seems mismatched and labored. The similarly
themed “Ballad of the Ballot and the Bullet Part 1: Ugly
Americans,” though righteous in its outrage, already sounds like a
relic of a very different time, even though it’s only a couple of
months in the past.
Soul of My Soul contains some of
Shocked’s heaviest rock songs since “Fogtown” hid at the end of
Short Sharp Shocked, but it’s not always a good sound for her. The
glammy “Giantkiller” sounds silly in its revved aggression,
“Paperboy” just pointless. The chorus to “Heart to Heart”
stair-steps in and out of minor key, but the too-smooth backing
vocals derail the weight of that chorus. Only “Waterproof” rocks
convincingly, thanks to some '80s synths that simulate momentum. In
general, the album sounds like another experiment from an artist
whose spirited fearlessness has outstripped her musical faculties.
Listen to Michelle Shocked on MySpace.