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Jarred Up

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Album Review

Besides their albums, Mecca Normal released a variety of singles in its first few years, not to mention contributing to a wide variety of contributions. Jarred Up brings together twenty-two otherwise unavailable songs recorded between 1987 and 1993, making for a great collection and a handy starting point for any newcomer to the band. Many of Mecca Normal's highlights didn't appear on the album, so in lieu of a ‘greatest hits' compilation, this readily does the business. What's especially neat is hearing the occasional experiments and different approaches that also crop up. One of the first songs is "Man Thinks Woman," which besides being one of Smith's sharper analyses regarding gender relations and roles (the midsong spoken word break is both funny and pointed) is notable for featuring Lester on acoustic guitars rather than his standard electric. After that initial surprise, further examples appear: the folk/country hybrid "He Didn't Say" (with Smith on slightly ghostly, reverb-heavy vocals), backwards cymbals and other quasi-psychedelic turns at various points. Plenty of other individual instances of Mecca Normal's brilliance occur in more familiar guises – "How Many Now?," with Lester's circular notes providing a gentle bed for one of Smith's most heartfelt performances; the wonderful, quick charge of "You Heard It All," which slows down just enough to pump up the drama; the soft skip and good feeling of "Upside Down Flames." If there's a slight downside to the album, it's only in the packaging – a listing of where all the tracks came from, along with a reproduction of Smith's often fascinating lyrics, would have been nice. Otherwise, any self-respecting fan of the band needs this without question, while others could do worse to have this be the introduction to the duo's entrancing, involving style.

Biography

Formed: 1981 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

A seminal influence on Northwestern indie rock (and especially on the riot grrl movement), Vancouver's Mecca Normal was the bridge between female post-punk primitives like the Raincoats and the Slits — not to mention Patti Smith's punk poetry — and the more explicitly political, feminist noisemakers of the '90s. Lo-fi, amateurish, and decidedly minimalist, Mecca Normal was essentially a duo, with occasional studio help; vocalist Jean Smith (also a poet, novelist, and painter) declaimed...
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Jarred Up, Mecca Normal
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