Punknews.org
Cat Power - The Greatest (Cover Artwork)

Cat Power

Cat Power: The GreatestThe Greatest (2006)
Matador Records

Reviewer Rating: 4


Contributed by: indie_is_better_than_punkindie_is_better_than
(others by this writer | submit your own)

"Once I wanted to be the greatest," croons Chan Marshall on the title track to this, her latest album under the Cat Power moniker, "No wind or waterfall could stall me." While the song itself may refer to a fictional boxer, the lyrics seem to perfectly describe her music career. Since 1995, she has .
iTunes StoreAmazon


"Once I wanted to be the greatest," croons Chan Marshall on the title track to this, her latest album under the Cat Power moniker, "No wind or waterfall could stall me." While the song itself may refer to a fictional boxer, the lyrics seem to perfectly describe her music career. Since 1995, she has released seven albums on three different labels, earning much critical acclaim but remaining virtually unknown the American public. Financial difficulties and the cold hardships of the music industry have been mere waterfalls in her path to The Greatest, an album that is sure to bolster her reputation as one of indie rock's best female artists.

Marshall's celebrated voice combined with her unique inflection evokes at times Janis Joplin and at other times Beth Orton and her Lilith Fair brethren. Descriptions like these have remained constant throughout Cat Power's 11-year run, but never have they been so accurate. Upon first listen, one might swear "The Moon" and the untitled bonus track were recorded in the `60s by Joplin herself.

The album as a whole is all over the place musically. The inclusion of some key Memphis session players (including Al Green's guitarist and collaborative songwriter Mabon Hodges) on nearly every song give it an overall Southern feel, but Marshall has proven that huge sonic differences can arise even within the same basic genre.

The subtle vocals and dark tones of the opener (and title track) almost sound like they would have been at home on Fiona Apple's new album. But just when the listener becomes accustomed to this style, the uncharacteristically upbeat "Living Proof" begins, throwing some gospel in to the mix, electric organ and all. The third track, "Lived in Bars" is equally disparate from its predecessor. For the first half, it plods along with a `70s nightclub feel before melting into a catchy sing-along with just the right amount of muted trumpet.

Marshall nearly reinvents herself on every other track on the album as well. From the starry-eyed ballad "Where Is My Love," to the ragtime "After It All," to the almost bluegrass-ish "Empty Shell," she appears to have made it a point to never sing the same song twice.

Despite the musical differences between each song, the album as a whole loses some steam in the second half. After exciting songs like "Could We" and lovely ballads like "Willie," the stripped-down feel of "Islands" and "Hate" seems boring in comparison. It's almost as though Marshall purposely confined all of the high-energy tunes to the first half of the disc. That is, until the outstanding closer "Love and Communication."

Quickly establishing itself as by far the best song on the album, it soon proves itself to be a heavyweight even in Cat Power's extensive catalog. Its looming string arrangements perfectly accentuate a great vocal melody and some outstanding rhythm guitar work. Once it's over, you're left wanting more and wishing the second half of the album measured up to its greatness. If only Marshall could have channeled the energy of this track and sprinkled it throughout the second half of The Greatest, she might have had a true masterpiece on her hands. For now, we'll just have live with 7 or 8 of her best songs to date.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
Against Me! - As The Eternal CowboyTim Barry - ManchesterTim Barry - Rivanna JunctionBomb the Music Industry! - VacationClassics of Love - Classics of LoveThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastSignals Midwest - Latitudes and LongitudesApologies, I Have None - LondonTim Barry - 40 MilerShinobu - Strange Spring Air

Please login or register to post comments.What are the benefits of having a Punknews.org account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on the stories that interest you
  • Rate music and bands and help shape the weekly top ten
  • Let Punknews.org use your ratings to help you find bands and albums you might like
  • Customize features on the site to get the news the way you want.
Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Rance (September 17, 2006)

putting on a bad show is not appealing in any way.. why the hell does she do it?
blehhhh!

wyzo (September 16, 2006)

one of the best shows ive ever been to was osker opening for automatic 7. 80% banter and fighting with the audience about how overdone 'playing songs' is.

bad shows can be great. Now if its a 'production' your looking for, I hear the new AFI tour has the missing jabba footage they've always thought was missing from "Endor-lessly, She Said".

Star wars legos rules.

wyzo

indie_is_better_than_punk (September 16, 2006)

guy below me...

bingo

EyesLikeBombs (September 16, 2006)

I don't think he meant the actual shows were part of the allure, it's the frailty and personality traits she shows when putting on these nutso shows that are alluring.

rkl (September 16, 2006)

Posted by indie_is_better_than_punk on 2006-09-16 16:17:36

cat power is notorious for putting on bad shows. i have read about several in which chan didn't finish a single song..and spent like 10 minutes tuning or something between the half-songs she played.

that's just part of her allure.

count me among those who dont consider putting on a shitty live show to be alluring in any way, shape, form, or fashion.

indie_is_better_than_punk (September 16, 2006)

cat power is notorious for putting on bad shows. i have read about several in which chan didn't finish a single song..and spent like 10 minutes tuning or something between the half-songs she played.

that's just part of her allure.

Anonymous (September 16, 2006)

i have all her albums and enjoy her greatly, however ....when i saw her live last , it was a bad time spent. why? she was sooooo ripped on dope (heroin) she couldnt play/talk/perform. the friend playing beside her was nodding off while he was playing the piano. the merch guy was passed out (ensuring me a free copy of the last lp). they ended up playing a cover of a shit southern song and i ended up leaving in anger. at least i got some free merch for my money spent on a crap show. the local dope must of been strong that night.

ahoitherr (September 15, 2006)

wait...the best album of the year? no. sorry. it is a well written and preformed album, but nothing to World/Inferno's Red-Eyed Soul.

Not-To-Regret (September 15, 2006)

I love this kinda loungey rock. Such as Nouvelle Vague, they kick ass. Their self titled album contains lounge-ish covers of classic punk and new wave songs.

Haven't heard this album yet i'm listening to the discography in chronological order, so far the first album is my favorite.

Score's for lounge-core.

Anonymous (September 15, 2006)

"Covers" is great. Not punk, but great.

indie_is_better_than_punk (September 15, 2006)

this is my album of the year so far....by the way.

indie_is_better_than_punk (September 15, 2006)

man i didn't really think they were actually going to use this.

Anonymous (September 15, 2006)

hey punx! dont understand this kind of music? just dont GET it? put it on when there are ladies around. trust me, THEY get it. you will seem more sensitive and they will be more likely to drop trou.

iconoclast (September 15, 2006)

this album isnt bad, but her album you are free is absolutely incredible. its good to see reviews for stuff like this on this site.

danperrone (September 15, 2006)

and also, totally shitty year for pitchfork-esque music

danperrone (September 15, 2006)

so very overrated

rycrisp (September 15, 2006)

I thought this was those Australian dudes. Cat Power fight!

200_Bars (September 15, 2006)

I wasn't that impressed with this album. The soul/gospel influence and bigger arrangements didn't do much for me. An album like Moon Pix, and how concise is, shows Chan's strengths.

Exclusive Streams

Sponsored


The Fest 13

Newest Reviews

Punknews.org Team

Other Places to Go