Juliana Hatfield once portrayed an angel on the best goddamn teen show of all time and sang sweetly about living on purity of soul. But that was over twenty years ago – now she’s down here with the rest of us, experienced in the bitter realities of life. Her blistering new album Pussycat is full of horror about politics, relationships and the cruel world we find ourselves in.
The album opens with the feminist revenge song I Wanna Be Your Disease where Hatfield imagines infecting every man who ever cheated or lied or worse. This is a brilliant song, evoking her best 90s melodies and the lyrics are both personal and political. Impossible Song slows things a little, concerned with the importance of harmony and unity. But the title tells you all you need to know about the reality of that dream.
You’re Breaking My Heart is about the loss of hope in a relationship but also in the idea of a hero itself. This kind of worship only breeds the worst kind of egomaniac, like the famous sex perverts attacked in the muddy sounding When You’re a Star. It should be shocking to hear her sing the words grab another girl against her will and maybe she will be the one you kill but sadly it’s all too real. This is what powerful men have always done and they’re still in charge.
Short Fingered Man and Rhinoceros detail scenarios of sexual disgust and disappointment that would be funny if they weren’t so sadly familiar for most women. This inadequacy is the unspoken truth behind a lot of macho posturing and Hatfield’s lyrics are a brilliantly savage attack on Trump and men like him. Sex Machine goes even further – imagining a future where technology satisfies male desire. The failure of love might seem like a tragedy but the modern world has made it this way. You can hear the bitter relief when women are finally free. The fuzzy guitars increase as the album closes, but the quality of the songs is never lost – Wonder Why, Sunny Somewhere and Heartless being the standouts.
By the end of the album the bad moon has risen but Hatfield is not ready to sit back and let the night win. She won’t become another voiceless victim. This album is more than a political statement – it’s the sound of an artist being recharged and rising up to reclaim her rightful place as a vital force worth listening to.
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