Little Plastic Castle
Righteous Babe Music
A review written for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Who is this Ani DiFranco anyway? Is she a folk artist? A punk rocker? A performance artist? Well needless to say, this singer/songwriter is a hard one to classify and pigeonhole. But with her album entitled Little Plastic Castle on her own label, Righteous Babe, Ani DiFranco goes from mariachi to spoken word to blues, folk and R&B. She runs the gamut of all musical genres and she does this with great confidence.
I was first introduced to Ani DiFranco when I crashed a Vancouver Folk Festival by accident. I had heard about her numerous times on the Folk Music list - but I couldn't get my teeth around her so-called "Punk folk" personage until I attended that concert which she was headlining. Boy, was I in for a pleasant surprise. This girl has a warmth with her audience, songs you can identify with and she always challenges her talent and herself. I immediately went out and bought Living in Clip, her "live" album to get a taste of everything she's written and fast became a fan.
With Little Plastic Castle, Ani starts out with the title song from her album. What seems to be a nice folk ditty quickly becomes a mariachi delight, horns blasting in celebration but diametrically opposed to her lyrics as she sardonically sings about what people expect of her:
|"People talk about my image |
like I come in two dimensions
like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind
like what I happen to be wearing
the day that someone takes a picture
is my new statement for all of womankind"
It's a rip-roaring beginning to an album full of surprises. The next cut is Fuel which is a spoken word song that had me laughing with its political statement and underlying jazz rifts:
|"...except all the radios agree with all the tv's |
and the magazines agree with all the radios
and I keep hearing that same damn song
everywhere I go,
maybe I should put a bucket over my head
and a marshmallow in each ear
and stumble around for another dumb numb week
for another hum drum hit song to appear"
Gravel is a song I was familiar with as there's a "live" version of it on Living in Clip. But this is the studio version and it's just as good. It tells the story of a love/hate relationship breaking up and the anger that comes with that:
|"You've been juggling two women like a stupid circus clown |
telling us both we are the one
and maybe you can keep me from ever being happy
but you're not going to stop me from having fun"
The girl can write a lyric! The first three cuts on the album are winners. Some of the other tunes you need to hear over and over again. Musically, DiFranco has a frenetic edge that takes getting used to. There's no one to compare her to, she stands alone. Her voice can be grating when it's right for the song and soft and sweet when it needs to be. Her lyrics are hard-edged and take a no-holds barred approach as in Two Little Girls:
|"here comes little naked me |
padding up to the bathroom door
to find little naked you
slumped on the bathroom floor
so I guess I'll just stand here
with my back against the wall
while you distill your whole life
down to a 911 call"
There's a lot of anger combined with a clever twist of words so you don't feel uncomfortable listening to her raw confessions. She says it like it is:
|"I guess that push has come to this |
so I guess this must be shove
but before you throw those stones at me
tell me, what is your house made of?"
- Glass House
Produced by Ani DiFranco and Andrew Gilchrist, the recording is top notch and the players tight.
Ani DiFranco is an acquired taste, much like fine wine. If you let her music into your heart, she will entertain you, surprise and challenge you and, above all, keep you satisfied. The song list is as follows:
| || |
Edited by: Virginia Wagner