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What's New, Pussycat?

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Album Review

Let's be honest: there are a lot of animal enthusiasts who just plain don't like cats. They hate the way they stink up a house or apartment; they hate their aloof, standoffish demeanor and their what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude. They assert that dogs — apart from the dangerous breeds that will chew someone's head off just for the fun of it — are generally much warmer, nicer, more loyal companions. And those who dislike cats might be turned off by the fact that Lisa Bernstein, aka Lisa B, brings a cat-themed perspective to her third full-length album, What's New, Pussycat?, but musically and vocally, this 2006 release has a lot going for it. Some of the tracks are literally about cats, but quite often, Bernstein uses the word "cat" as a metaphor — she uses it as hipster/beatnik/bebop slang — and she is really singing about human situations on jazzy, playful originals like "Crazy Cat," "Slay Me (My Young Cat)" and the salsa-flavored "Cha Cha de la Gata (Kitty-Cat Cha)." Bernstein generally doesn't provide jazz in the strict sense; most of her material is jazz-influenced pop/R&B, and occasionally, she incorporates spoken word, poetry and light rapping. In the past, there were times when the eccentric, quirky Bernstein — for all her worthwhile ideas — could be too self-indulgent for her own good. But being overly self-indulgent isn't a huge problem on this 46-minute CD; from Bernstein's own material to an intriguing arrangement of Graham Nash's "Our House," What's New, Pussycat? is infectious more often than not. The album's worst track is Bernstein's schmaltzy, mushy ballad "When Malika Sleeps," an ode to a cat (in the literal sense) that has gone to that great litter box in the sky. But there are more ups than downs on this generally memorable and clever CD.

What's New, Pussycat?, Lisa B
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