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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Absolutely Barking Stars

Pandora's BoxThere are two songs on Maria McKee’s Life is Sweet that sound like they’ve been drafted in from a demented but kitchen-sink musical. Absolutely Barking Stars is the first of them as McKee gives us the tale of a woman with a split personality who ultimately comes to embrace her internal “twin”.

While most complaints about Life is Sweet tend to come from people who struggled to accept the woman from Lone Justice departing so drastically from their expectations, the one legitimate complaint about the album is that its production and style of songs means it doesn’t fully show off Maria’s powerhouse vocal abilities but here at least we do get a glimpse of them in Absolutely Barking Stars’ epic chorus which gives Maria the chance to fully open her lungs. Granted, the mix means her voice isn’t as to the fore as it would’ve been on previous albums but, for those with ears to listen, it’s there.

Also getting a run out is her guitar playing which, as before, is raw and frenetic but this time carrying strong echoes of Queen.

Ultimately, for all its keen lyrics and theatrical twists, the thing that perhaps reminds us most that Maria’s a mistress of her craft, on top of her game, is the song’s ending in which she doesn’t bother to sing the last line, letting it dangle as the track simply ends. The final line doesn’t need to be sung - we get the message and Maria knows it.

It’s great stuff and it’s hard to think of anyone else around at that time, or possibly any other time, who could have written and performed Absolutely Barking Stars, making it one of the stand-out tracks on a stand-out album.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

are apron strings - speed? i think so>.. Lobe this girl so!

The Cryptic Critic said...

They are? That's what I love about the Internet. I learn something new from it every day.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to disagree, but I made the same mistake as you - with the dual personality. This is a song about the mother/daughter dynamic.

"Apron Strings...trailing out like sparks" This is the magical/mythical mother in the kitchen.

"She blends so sticky in my blood", "I've tried to rip the seams", these are references to the deep and unbreakable influence (good and bad) of her mother over her own destiny.

This is a truly painful song about the struggle of a daughter to find her own life and her own way but is being foiled at every turn by her mother's influence and dominating control over her.

The Cryptic Critic said...

Interesting. It would never have occurred to me to interpret it that way.

omnipop1026 said...

Sonically, this song owes a lot to David Bowie circa 'Hunky Dory' and 'Ziggy Stardust' ; particularly the song 'Life on Mars'. The guitars sound like Mick Ronson, who did influence Brian May's playing.

The Cryptic Critic said...

Hi, omnipop. I read an interview she did not long after the album came out, where she said she was listening to a lot of Queen and David Bowie before she made the album. And also a lot of Mercury Rev.

Anonymous said...

Definitely hear the early 70s Bowie here.

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