Kat: Cat Power's new album is called WANDERER and she is -- so is the music she makes.
Cat's left MATADOR after a battle where they apparently forgot that they were an independent album and wanted her to churn out cookie cutter songs instead of pursue her art. If the tale is true, MATADOR's in a heap of trouble. They'd already lost Liz Phair and now Cat Power? Is there a reason for them to be around other than their back catalogue?
Cat's back catalogue includes great albums like YOU ARE FREE and SUN and JUKEBOX. It also includes THE GREATEST -- not just a classic for Cat but a classic period. In 2006, I compared it to the classic DUSTY IN MEMPHIS. Dusty produced many solid albums -- and a ton of great singles -- in her career but only one qualifies as a classic. With WANDERER, Cat manages to grab a second classic album.
WANDERER is bluesy, yes, but it's also tart and flows like syrup. It's the Georgia peach of Cat's Atlanta roots -- the peach that's been grown in Georgia for over 150 years but started out in China, the original wanderer. Song after song find Chan moving, a foot out the door, a look over the shoulder. "I am leaving," she sings in "Me Voy"; "I been wandering," in "Wanderer"; "When I walk from the bright side," in "Robbin Hood"; and she's singing about emotional changes as well as physical such as "The courage to turn it around" in "Nothing Really Matters" and "You forbade yourself to think/ See where you are as you begin to sink" in "In Your Face." Where are we and what are we becoming -- that seems to be the question WANDERER is asking.
Bite into the album and it's 11 tracks, savor it because it's all one delicious Georgia peach.
Mother, I wanna hold your hand
Father, I need you to be a man
Sister, if there's any help in me
I'm always on my way
Little brother, let's get on to travel
Let's get up to something
Little sister, can I have this dance
You're on the horizon I cannot stay
You're on the horizon I'm on my way
You're on the horizon
And he looked the other way
That's from "Horizon."
C.I. noted it was her favorite song and it's probably the heart of the album. But there are so many wonderful moments throughout the album, moments that are classics and come together to form a classic album. Each track adds to the total portrait and journey. Like Sade, Cat Power makes true albums, recordings meant to be heard in total.
In better times, we knew the importance of albums. You'd put one on for a date -- to make out too -- or to relax too -- maybe with a glass of something or a something rolled. You'd enjoy it, savor it. Now we're back to the bouncy bouncy of the 50s, pretending that "All About That Bass" has any more value than the equally dopey "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window."
Fortunately, though MATADOR didn't appear to grasp this, real artists like Cat Power do create a following.
"Woman," her song with Lana Del Rey, is a great song, probably won't pop up on top forty, bubble gum radio. But it's a great song. And if you appreciate music, you can get into the song and really appreciate the song. The label's role is to get the word out. MATADOR, and "Woman" sounds a lot like a reply to MATADOR, didn't seem to understand that. They appeared to believe that their job was to hold their hands beneath Ed Sheeran's and catch his droppings like "New Man" which you'll toss around, fling at your cages and then at the people. They don't seem to grasp art at all.
Or, sadly, what a wonderful trip WANDERER provides. Cat's caught the same wanderlust like Joni Mitchell did on HERIJA and the results are equally impressive.