Sunday, 6 February 2011

Ann Magnuson - Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories

Bongwater’s The Power Of Pussy was an impulse buy from my local, now sadly long gone, independent record store nearly 20 years ago, and it remains in my all time top ten albums to this day. Ann Magnuson was the lyricist and singer with Bongwater, and she’s come a long way and it’s been a long time since the days of Chicken Pussy but this is still essentially the same Ann Magnuson who gave the world all those strange songs and monologues from another planet all that time ago. Although probably as well if not better known as an actress, it's her gorgeously subversive music that's always appealed to me.

In this, a self released slab of subversive pop, Ann tells us where it’s at in the here and now – well in 2006 anyway. The album opens with the seemingly innocent Falling For An Actor, there’s the perfect pop song Disassociation replete with cooing girlie chorus, and marvellous stuff it is too. By now we know that all the barbed wit of yore is still there but bubbling just under the surface, and mellowed by experience. The bonkers I Met An Astronaut tells us the protagonist experiences space travel as endlessly fulfilling and Ann asks is it “Just like Burmese opium…(or) falling in love?” We should be told.

Sky’s a-Crying could have been a Scott Walker song circa 1967, and that is a compliment. The Picture On My Dentist’s Wall is a rococo flight of fantasy into Novocain’d paranoia.

The most out and out pop song on the album is the acerbic Full Of Fuck, where Ann imparts she doesn’t need “…that part that you hold dear”. The sound of a girl chorus cooing “Full Of Fu-uck” over and over brings a smile. Ann’s voice is still as pure as driven snow, which lends songs like this an extra frisson. Imagine a left field Deborah Harry singing about too much bad sex and you’ve got the picture. As a middle aged white middle class guy the idea of Ann Magnuson is really quite scary; one wonders what the reality of her is like? I’m sure she’s as nice as pie!

There are three monologues on this album, one set to woozily played Chopin no less, recalling her more bizarre streams of consciousness from the past. The album concludes with a lovely almost winsome poem, the uncredited What Is Pretty? The answer of course is you.

The last three songs on the album invoke nostalgia, defiance, and world-weariness by turn, but one thing is for sure Ann Magnuson will have her fun her way as she gets older, so why not join her for the ride? Boring it will not be!

Buy this cheaper here than on Amazon:

3.5 out of 5

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