Floral print, mini-backpacks, a new Juliana Hatfield album.
The ‘90s are back, baby.
The only thing about Pussycat that suggests it was written in 2017 are the lyrics, which invoke the rape cases against Bill Cosby and the nation that elected Trump. But Hatfield's sweet voice and grinding, occasionally discordant guitars are the ‘90s personified. Heavy on the sarcasm and heavier on the message of a tense nation, occasionally, Pussycat is just downright heavy.
There's a core of anti-sex running through the album, her 14th solo affair. "Short Fingered Man" is a sad ode to a man who can't finger his girl (it's also a slur often aimed at Trump), but it's more boringly vulgar than funny. "Sex Machine" relies heavily on feedback like the grinds of mechanical humping, and in an age when women are expected to be just as horny as men, it's oddly refreshing to hear a woman sing about how she wants a dude to just back off and stick his dick in a robot so she can be free to do other things. And the anti-rape sentiments of "When You're a Star" are so clearly Bill Cosby that she might as well have named the song "Bill Cosby is a Rapist."
Along the same protest vein is "Kellyanne," about Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway. But where "Short Fingered Man" failed in humor, "Kellyanne" comes out in glorious, gleeful force. "You're on fire in my dreams / your straw hair catches instantly." It gets pretty dark at the end, and Hatfield balances the cheeky with the grim.
But there's a lot of sweetness around the edges. Melodically, "Impossible Song" has former Wild Stab bandmate Paul Westerberg's fingerprints all over it, although the lyrics occasionally drift into Natalie Merchant territory. "Sunny Somewhere" sets off the darkness with a bright vision and generous, jangly guitars.
"You're Breaking My Heart" is the standout track, a perfect showcase for her dreamy voice and ambling melodies. But it's "I Want To Be Your Disease" that's going to get stuck in your head.
One major downside; Pussycat does run long, and near the end, the sounds all start to blend together. Hatfield says she wrote and recorded the album in less than two weeks, but another week or so in the studio might have served her better, giving her the space to cut unnecessary tracks like "Rhinoceros" and "Heartless."
There's nothing outstanding here, but that's not a bad thing. It's a good album for her fans, and someone picking up her music for the first time would likely be impressed enough to delve into her back catalogue. Probably not strong enough to become anyone's favorite, but a solid return to form.
Notable Tracks: "I Want To Be Your Disease" | "Sunny Somewhere" | "You're Breaking My Heart"