(Righteous Babe RBR025-D)
Righteous Babe Records
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
We made a band because we were bored with the entertainment that was supposed to be entertaining. - Bitch
Ani DiFranco, the most righteous of babes, elicits strong responses: one usually loves or hates her music. Her polemic songs about her life, politics, and love qualify her as a feminist singer/songwriter who eagerly interprets the personal as political. While liberals seldom disagree with what she has to say, her seriousness and self-importance can be a little off-putting and a tad self-righteous. One has to wonder, then, if Bitch and Animals' "Eternally Hard," perhaps the most outrageous album to be released on DiFranco's Righteous Babe Records, is meant as an antidote or equalizer to all of this high mindedness.
The faint of heart should be warned. Eternally Hard may not seem like a shocking album in New York City, but to anyone raised on revival folk or even Tracy Chapman, Bitch and Animal is another species all together. Even with stripped down, bass/percussion arrangements, the delivery is often aggressive. One might think of their style as "Take No Prisoners Folk" or Political Folk with Attitude to Spare." They've never met a word in the "Slang and Euphemism" dictionary that they didn't like, nor one that they minded shouting out at the most proper tea party. Offensive perhaps, but all of these attributes energize and invigorate a number of songs on Eternally Hard, making it a fun, edgy political album in the tradition of Tom Lehrer and early Phil Ochs.
The Best Cock on the Block offers a riotous, coded commentary on the male specie's undying faith in its own prowess. While females have long suffered the male gender's tendency to brag about everything from their salary to their ability as a lover, it's unnerving to hear two females sing from a male perspective, "I'm a lady lover, I'm a lady leaver, just one taste, and you'll be a believer." Few other moments on the album are quite this funny, but bass-heavy word raps like Scrap Metal and Pissed work exceptionally well. The first uses driving as a metaphor for the multiple collisions that occur in relationships, while the latter might be described as an ode to rage. Ganja, an ode of a different kind set to the tune of Angels We Have Heard on High, unfolds like a Catholic's nightmare, with angels, Jesus, and Mother Mary getting wasted.
These elevated moments are difficult to sustain, though, and expectations are occasionally deflated because many of Eternally Hard's songs fail to match the outlandishness of the most bizarre material. Pieces like Traffic and Mother's Day have their own charms, but are probably closer to typical singer/songwriter material than political folk. Also, bouncing between stoned angels and one's inner child can be a bit jarring. Nonetheless, one owes it to his or her inner animal to give "Eternally Hard" a listen. It's the type of album that's fun to break out during a party, or to use to get rid of unwanted relatives. Bitch and Animal offer a fun, provocative alternative to the seriousness and political correctness that informs too much political songwriting.
Copyright 2002, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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