Lisa Germano summary

Written by Jeff Keibel on Wed, 28 Aug 1996 21:56:06 -0700.


Released by 4AD on... UK: Sept. 9 US: Sept. 10 CAN: Sept. 11

A new record from Lisa Germano. If you know Lisa Germano's work, you'll know to take Excerpts From A Love Circus home with you. It's not an album that's going to benefit from being listened to in an office -- competing with the phones and the faxes and the e-mails. As ever, Lisa whispers her secrets into your ear, and you wouldn't want to miss anything. (Well, you could skip to track seven and play 'Small Heads', the single, in the office; but you'll end up playing two-note air piano on your desk, and you may suffer ridicule from your peers.)

If you don't know Lisa Germano's work, then this is a good day. You've got a really fine record here -- and even better, there's three others for you to catch up on. Lisa mainly sings about dysfunctional relationships, and some of her songs get pretty grim, but somehow her records end up being funny and uplifting as well. Her voice is very breathy and gets right inside you, as does her violin playing. Her songwriting is simply extraordinary -- as intense, honest and personal as anyone writing today.

>From her lyrics, you'd figure that she has a very low opinion of herself. Boy, is she wrong.

Previously on Lisa Germano...

Lisa made an album called On The Way Down From The Moon Palace. It was just some demos she recorded at home, but her friend Paul Mahern encouraged her to release it, and she did -- on her own Major Bill label. Why Major Bill? Because putting it out cost her a major bill. ("Ha, ha, ha," as Lisa would say.)

That got her a deal with Capitol, and she made another record called Happiness. This record is about missing out on something, or longing for something -- or some state -- that you don't have anymore... and it's about a dysfunctional relationship, and trying to work out whether, if everyone's shitting on you, you might have done something to deserve this treatment, and whether your view of yourself is closer to the truth than other people's view of you. Somewhere along the line, Lisa realises that if she wants to be happy, it's up to her.

Capitol released Happiness, but then 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell saw Lisa at a showcase and approached Capitol about licensing the album in the UK. It quickly became obvious that Lisa and Capitol weren't hitting it off, and Lisa moved across to 4AD. Happiness was remixed and re-sequenced; the cover version of 'These Boots Were Made For Walking' that Capitol had insisted on was dropped, and the album was re-released on 4AD.

The title track was named by Brian Eno as the song he listened to most in 1995 (in one of those end-of-year features in Q magazine.

Lisa talks about the new record...

"You guys get that catalogue, right?" asks Lisa Germano, referring to "Victoria's Secret" -- the sexy underwear-by-mail-order company, and now also the title of a Lisa Germano song. "It should be fun looking through it," says Lisa, "but when you're depressed and you think you're ugly and your boyfriend left you, you really don't need to have this shoved in your face -- full of beautiful breasts and slinky legs."

Lisa sang 'Victoria's Secret' at a benefit for a women's shelter. When she announced the song a heckler yelled out something so abusive that "I told him, if you're going to say that fucking stuff, get the fuck out of here, and the next day the press was all about, oh, she can't control her temper."

Yeah, right. Lisa's problem is she controls her temper too well. Witness "Message From Sophia": "I got home to someone and I walked into the house and there was this really sexy message from a French woman on the machine. And I thought, wow, I caught him. And I confronted him, and he denied it. I decided to just watch him. I just let it go. I wrote that song about it. Later I did get dumped."

This gets us nearly into Lisa's favourite area -- relationships that aren't working out, why the hell you got into them in the first place, and why it's so hard to get out of them. As your English teacher would tell you, there's a conflict here. The trio of songs -- "Bruises", "I Love A Snot" and "Forget It, It's A Mystery" -- work over this ground thoroughly.

Lisa nearly didn't put 'I Love A Snot' on the album. "Ivo said to me, 'I don't know why you want to write a song about snot.' I said, 'No, Ivo, it's not about snot. It's about a snot -- someone who's snotty, someone who's all snobby.' So later I was telling this story to two guys from the 4AD office in L.A., about how Ivo didn't know what a snot was and that it must mean something different in England, and how funny it was that he thought I would even write a song about snot, and they said, 'Actually, we didn't know either until you just told us.' Anyway, the words don't make sense if it's about snot."

"Forget It" was one of several songs on the album that started out mean, according to Lisa, but under the influence of co-producer Paul Mahern, took on a more positive aspect. Mahern -- the man who encouraged Lisa to release her first album -- "was trying to steer me into being more positive. He would burn sage around the house to get rid of evil spirits."

What evil spirits? "I had a bad relationship in the house. Anyway, we switched some of these songs from being hateful to being what they are . I was trying to have a sense of humour."

How many bad relationships have you had? "To be honest, just three or four -- they all end up being the same song because you keep on repeating what you're doing."

And do the guys know the songs are about them? "I think they know. Actually, one person I don't think ever knew, and I wrote whole bunches about him. Anyway, after they've become songs, they're not really about anyone anymore. They're just about situation. They're just songs."

In between the songs on Excerpts from a Love Circus you'll hear plenty of interruptions from Lisa's two cats, Dorothy and Miamo-Tutti. (Among the thank-yous on the sleeve is one for the Blue Sky clinic for saving Miamo-Tutti's life.) Dorothy takes the lead on 'Where's Miamo-Tutti?", whereas Miamo-Tutti's uneasy growling can be heard on "Just a Bad Dream". And on "There's More Kitties in the World Than Just Miamo-Tutti" Lisa gives Dorothy some advice that clearly is really aimed at herself: 'as soon as you quit looking, they'll come around.'

Which brings us neatly to the other song that Lisa nearly left off the album, "Lovesick". She says she thought maybe it was too personal. This from the woman who, on her last album, shared with us the feelings of a woman lying in bed waiting for the guy who's stalking her to break into her house ('a psychopath who says he loves me, and I'm alone and I'm cold and I'm paralysed'). What could be too personal for Lisa Germano?

In the song, a man says to her, 'You're not my Yoko Ono'. Lisa explains the reference: "I didn't realise that I was living in this myth of two people going through life together and supporting each other, no matter what, until he said that to me. John Lennon was a very artistic man. He could have had anyone in the world -- but he chose a woman who challenged him, and they became soul-mates. So for this person to say that to me, he was saying, 'I never loved you, you're not strong enough for me, and we were never soul-mates.' Of course, I should have just said, 'Yeah, and you're no John fuckin' Lennon.'"

So why was this too personal for the album? "Maybe because I do have this stupid dream of trying to find a soul-mate, and that embarrasses me, and because it bugs me that I wasn't strong enough at the time to get out of a very bad relationship because of that dream," says Lisa. "It won't happen again!...Ha, ha, ha,..."

written by Mark Edwards June 1996

as posted by Jeff Keibel Toronto, ON CANADA

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