Juliana Hatfield: Weird review – wry alt-rock storyteller shines anew

(American Laundromat)

Older bands’ careers are more readily sustained by a hiatus/reunion cycle than consistency. So news of Juliana Hatfield’s 17th solo album – 25th if you include her albums with other groups – didn’t generate the headlines received by the returning Sleater-Kinney or Bikini Kill, her peers in 90s feminist rock. Her catalogue is inconsistent, but 32 years after she debuted with the brilliant indie-pop band Blake Babies, Hatfield has never grown complacent, and continually puts new shine on her wry alt-rock storytelling.

Juliana Hatfield: Weird artwork
Juliana Hat Photograph: Record Company Handout

On Pussycat, from 2017, Hatfield wrote captivatingly horrible songs about Donald Trump that included a graphic vision of him having sex and a demand to melt Kellyanne Conway’s face off. Weird turns inwards, detailing the 51-year-old’s enduring awkwardness with a self-effacing candour – expressed in her forever young voice – that matches youthful successors such as Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy. Her hair’s not right; her shirt is stained. Everything’s for Sale lists society’s shopping list (“altered DNA, self-cleaning ovens”) over a stubborn, choppy guitar that intimates Hatfield’s refusal to sell out.

But it’s never self-pitying. The fuzzy All Right, Yeah seems to mock the self-appointed cool of that Gen-X attitude (she had a song on the Reality Bites soundtrack) and Hatfield seems content to “ride on the spaceship in my mind”, as she sings on the mellow Lost Ship. After all, self-sufficiency has taken her this far. “Just a set of headphones and a girl, that’s all there is to it,” she sings on the ebullient Do It to Music.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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