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What Would The Community Think?
review from nude as the news
rating:  7.5 out of 10

Listening to What Would the Community Think is like watching a friend on the verge of losing her mind. It is a wild and sometimes disturbing ride, but it is completely honest. And like any great blues album, it is contagious.

Cat Power singer/songwriter/nomad Chan Marshall has got the blues, and they are amazing. On her Matador debut, Marshall, with the assistance of drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) and guitarist/bassist Tim Foljhan (Two Dollar Guitar), draws a bleak landscape that will feel like home to anyone who has ever fallen on hard days.

Album opener “In This Hole” juxtaposes the minimal sounds of a xylophone and electric guitar with Marshall’s lyrics of poverty stricken star-crossed lovers who realize that the honeymoon is over. This sets the table for the next string of songs: the eerie-yet-sexy Polly Jean Harvey crunch of “Good Clean Fun” and the cryptic lyrics and undeniable stomp of “Nude As The News” (Jackson, Jesse / I’ve got his son in me). And in the blues-ridden “They Tell Me,” Marshall proclaims “The Lord don’t give a shit about me,” while somehow summoning the spirits of Janis Joplin and Bessie Smith.

Midway through the album, Marshall trades her minimal approach and goes country. On “Taking People,” Marshall incorporates the pedal steel while singing about taking pictures of a lover, knowing all too well she will eventually regret the photos. And though the subject matter isn’t uplifting, its upbeat feel sets the perfect mood to get the listener out of the hole that Marshall has created. But only momentarily.

Marshall immediately goes back into the circles of Hell with the disturbing human routines in “Fate of the Human Carbine” and the lost blues of “King Rides By.” Then, if things weren’t tragic enough, Marshall takes on the Smog song “Bathysphere.”

Cat Power steps up the pace a toward the end of the album, and even rocks out: borrowing some Sonic Youth riffs on “Enough,” she incorporates the overlapping spoken word technique that Velvet Underground perfected on “The Murder Mystery.”

On What Would the Community Think, Marshall and her Cat Power collaborators succeed in creating one amazing car crash of an album. Marshall uses her fragile voice and spare tones to suck the listener into her secret world of pain.

— Mark Groeschner