Ladies Love Oracle – Grant Lee Phillips
I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all
It's a pink moon
It's a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.
Can someone loan Mr. Phillips some anti-depressants? On his solo debut,
Ladies Love Oracle, Grant Lee Phillips wallows in self-pity,
self-loathing, and a plethora of other self-hyphenated complexes. The 1970s
singer/songwriter drivel, which infected so many artists, has reappeared in
Grant Lee Phillips in some blatant Nick Drake-isms.
Ignore the liner note referencing the recording being made in Jon Brion's
(producer for Fiona Apple, Brad Mehldau, etc.) basement. Drake's talents
with language – used to create sullen, introspective images – has become the
private recording domicile of Phillips. His breathy lamentations on
"Heavenly," and the internal anger of "Flamin' Shoe," were all liberally
plucked from Drake's Pink Moon.
Lyrical ambiguity, as a result, drunkenly drives the album. Multiple
metaphors are placed together to create a sense of tremendous listener
flexibility. "Squint," for example, moves purposefully from voyeurism to
self-anxiety and guardian angel readings. Like Drake, Phillips leaves the
analysis and possible readings to the listener.
That said, the art of murky, multiple lyrical possibilities remains somewhat
foreign for Phillips. At times throughout the album, he destroys a possible
analysis with a blatant single line to summarize the song's content,
preferring to spill the beans before we the listeners can have a chance to
All of which can be endearing to the melancholic audience, but downright
infuriating and bewildering for the rest of us. Too often Phillips appears
to reach beyond his limits, to create works like Drake's which can gestate
meanings beyond temporal constraints. Then when he realizes he might be
beyond his resources, he attempts to add lucidity, which only compounds the
lyrical miscues. Sadly, the album becomes nothing more than the downtrodden
doggerel which haunted us through the 1970s. Janis Ian's "When I Was 19"