There was a time when I had a thing for Juliana Hatfield. In the early '90s I thought she was the bee's knees. Even as her somewhat minimal popularity began to wane, I still felt that she was an artist, like a Matthew Sweet or Jason Falkner, whose defining music will age exceptionally well. Imagine my disappointment upon revisiting Hatfield and hearing her tarnish her legacy with her band Some Girls and its sophomore (and sophomoric) album. Crushing Love is a crashing bore.
Some Girls (not to be confused with the hardcore band of the same name) is a resurrection of sorts of the Blake Babies, with both Juliana Hatfield and drummer Freda Love back together again and bringing bassist Heidi Gluck along for the ride. Apparently they've been together since 2003. Who knew?
I recall being a young Midwestern transplant attending college in Southern California when the Juliana Hatfield Three's Become What You Are was released. I immediately fell under its spell and retroactively swooned over her former band Blake Babies. At the time, I identified with her awkward adolescent pop songs. I know I've grown up a bit in the last thirteen years. Why hasn't Hatfield?
Her songwriting credits on Crushing Love include "Hooray for L.A.," the most obvious, uninspired and shallow dig on Los Angeles and its culture that I have ever heard, and that says something. Way too much of the album plays like Angst for Novices, intolerable enough from artists who haven't yet figured out how to write a song. At the end of the fifth track, a rather pathetic tough-chick pose called "Social Control," Hatfield mutters, "That's about enough of that." Were that it were so.
Actually, the best songs on the album are those by Gluck, the non-Blake Baby. Both "On My Own Again" and "Live Alone" have a tenderness and tunefulness that Hatfield too often overcompensates on her tracks. Gluck, also a member of the Only Children, may be the artist to continue watching out for in the future.
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