Bleached roots rock
The lyrics for Geraldine Fibbers' first full-length album - Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home, released earlier this summer - are laid out as a book of short stories, table of contents and all. The song titles are presented as chapters ("XII. Get Thee Done"), the songs are written out as prose, and the album plays itself out like a soundtrack to a book instead of a film. As Carla Bozulich sings her devestating, poignant, precise tales in a flat and unattractively pretty voice that's neither male or female, a sound undulates and seethes and swirls beneath her words; it's a foreign sound, as expansive as the horizon and as minute as the violin Jessy Green plays on so many songs. It's a rock and roll sound, a punk sound, a country sound, a sound that explodes and contracts and invites and denies and blames and forgives; it's a sound you've never heard before, a sound you've never forgotten, a sound that makes very tangible the images and actions of Bozulich's little song-stories.
It has been written that the Geraldine Fibbers are the '90s answer to bands like the Flying Burrito Brothers and X, a (punk) rock band influenced by country and its redemptive tales of sin and its condemned stories of salvation; but this L.A.-based band is as country as Garth Brooks is jazz, hardly the sort of ironic purists who refer to the violin as a "fiddle" and who use the pedal steel when an electric guitar turned to 11 will work just fine. Formed a year ago in the aftermath and afterbirth of Ethyl Meatplow (which Bozulich fronted in her sex-music disco days), the Fibbers once recalled Bedhead at a square dance; and still, their songs often begin as a subtle drone and quickly build toward a thousand tiny screams and climaxes.
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But the Fibbers of The Earth and My Home are a far more complex breed of band: Bozulich (a former heroin addict who kicked the habit the hard way) writes like Lou Reed (natch), balancing the junkie's despair with the romantic's hopefulness. "A Song About Walls" tells of a woman who leaves her "junky boyfriend" ("an asshole with an appetite") to live on the streets, probably even die there; she cleans up and dries out, though, and is always haunted by her ex's face until one day she encounters him again - "at the funeral parlor ... fresh off the prison shelf." It's a bitter song, the music raging against a whisper and a haunting violin, but it's also a tale about redemption and a future.
But as Bozulich reminds on "Richard," written and recounted as a fable in which the Devil seduces his (or is it her?) bride, such a thing as the "lust for luck and security is a hopeless romance [and] comfort is a myth." Which is why she's "drowned in sorrow" and "drowned in scorn" on the "Outside of Town," "already down with you" in "The French Song" and "lost somewhere between the earth and my house" in "The Small Song." But as she sings in the closing "Get Thee Done," "My sadness does not escape me now," while in the background a banjo and lap steel and electric guitar and violin moan and screech to the tune of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" until it coalesces into the sound of doom approaching and consuming.
The Geraldine Fibbers open for Mike Watt October 27 at Trees.