Juliana Hatfield is probably tired of being referred to as the jangle pop queen of alternative rock, especially since the designation alternative rock is more of a boat anchor than anything else in our new millennium. Besides, Hatfield has been fighting against the more "perky" side of her musical personality for some time (most notably with the fascinating misfire Juliana's Pony: Total System Failure from her project Juliana's Pony), and The White Broken Line: Live Recordings feels like a new attempt to recast her music and her image in a more aggressive and challenging light. The White Broken Line was recorded during a handful of shows during 2005 (except for two songs from a 2002 date), most in and around her hometown of Boston, and while the tunefulness of the majority of these tunes is in the forefront, the lean, scrappy sound of Hatfield's voice and guitar, accompanied by a no-nonsense rhythm section (Ed Valauskas on bass and Peter Caldes on drums), pushes the music in a harder and more angular direction than folks who haven't paid her much mind since Hey Babe would expect. There's also an ominous lyrical edge to "Choose Drugs," "Necessito" and "Hotels" that is well served by the no-frills recording and arrangements on The White Broken Line, and the dark, fuzzy solo guitar of "Ten Foot Pole" is as far away from jangle as a gal can get. This album falls short of a full-scale reinvention of Juliana Hatfield, but that's hardly what she likely had in mind; instead, The White Broken Line allows Hatfield to show that she's got more chops as a rocker than she gets credit for, and that her songs respond well to having the amps turned up. More of this stuff, with a bit more focus and precision, would be welcome indeed.
|Label:||Ye Olde Records|