Up Up Up Up Up
label: righteous babe
our score: 3.5 out of 5.0
You Want To
decade-long rise to stardom and critical acclaim is quite admirable
in this here-today-gone-tomorrow era of disposable sensitive songwriters.
Equally admirable are her refusal to sign with a major label,
her frighteningly prolific pen (a new album every year since 1990),
and her complete control of all her marketing and production decisions.
But the most admirable aspect of this remarkable singer/songwriter
is her ability to avoid musical trends and stick to her own vision.
In spite of the fact that her being female is just about the only
thing Ani DiFranco has in common with the Abra Moores and Natalie
Imbruglias of the world, much of her recent popularity is a result
of the Lillith Fair genre and its after-effects. It would be easy
for her to write a mainstream pop song and receive the same level
of publicity as the dozens of Joni Mitchell / Kate Bush wannabes
that nobody will remember in 2003. But she doesn't, and most likely
None of the
11 songs on Up Up Up Up Up are very radio-friendly, but
for those who like a little more sophistication than the aforementioned
whiney-flowery pop has to offer, Ani DiFranco delivers once again.
of Thee" starts things off with a plaintive look at how our society
has degenerated over the years in its treatment of the poor, perhaps
a bit preachy but she hits the nail right on the head when she
sings how we "criminalize the symptoms while we spread the disease."
The desperate "Virtue" gets a bit funky, and uses a flute better
than any tunes in recent memory. The banjo and harmonica driven
"Angry Anymore" is the most accessible song here, in which DiFranco
makes peace with her childhood demons. It may disappoint those
who expect the bitterness she is known for, but every singer should
be allowed to display a variety of emotions, and this rather happy
ballad is one of her prettiest songs ever. The 8 minute "Come
Away From It" is the biggest winner, a gripping anti-drug anthem
framed around a relationship falling apart. It moves ahead in
bold new musical directions too, a quiet gospel-like beginning,
gradually building to an organ-filled climax that Isaac Hayes
would be proud of. The only track that needs to be skipped is
"Hat Shaped Hat," a 13 minute trippy road to nowhere that's about
12 minutes too long.
album has a darker and more confusing tone than its predecessor,
last year's Little
Plastic Castle, and it may be slightly weaker in terms
of songcraft, but it may also just take longer to grow on the
average listener, and a weak album for Ani DiFranco is a masterpiece
for most. If you haven't yet been lucky enough to hear the music
of this remarkable unpretentious songwriter and personality, this
may not be the best place to start, but once you get hooked on
"Out of Range," "Not a Pretty Girl" and "Little Plastic Castle,"
or if you already are, it makes perfect sense to grab this one