Review Summary: Jackson, Jesse, I've got a son in me.
Chan Marshall and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley make a great major-label debut with What Would The Community Think. With their young, introverted and slightly crazed girl on vocals, Cat Power blew up in the NYC alt-rock scene. Compared to the band's last two albums, Myra Lee and Dear Sir, this is quite the triumph showcasing Chan's song and lyric writing at its peak. By this time she had a much greater sense of her abilities than the little kitten power who opened up for Liz Phair back in 1993. Let's just say that her performances could be painful in those times. Ironically, with this album Chan had begun to surpass the very peers that looked down on her by writing some of the most captivating lyric driven drone songs that completely and perfectly fill this particular album to its brim.
Cat Power is not known or her complexity, but her greatest strength lies in her lack of musicianship and even her near inability to play a guitar. Using a single guitar riff, Chan is able to construct an entire song, simply but effectively and never boring. A great example of her skills is shown in Community's lead single, Nude As the News, where the same progression plays throughout the song, but the phrasing of her lyrics and structure of the songs make for an interesting and powerful all the way through. Marshall's subject matter never disappoints either. Just on this album there is a song about an abortion Marshall got when she was twenty years old, about an apocalyptic rapture, and one about a completely fictional love scenario in which one of the lovers dies by means of drowning in a river.
No one is more real about their music than Chan Marshall is. Anyone could tell how much emotion is behind her words as she lets out her smoky, depressed croons in epic songs like King Rides By and Water and Air. No one is more honest than her either. She writes as if no one is listening, resulting in a musical confessional/diary of sorts.
One of the most important factors of this album's genius is Marshall's voice. No she is not an opera singer, and thank god she isn't because her sickly, ghost-like wails are much more affecting than anything I've ever heard. To hear her voice crack with emotion in the middle of Bathyshpere is truly an experience in the world of music where mistakes aren't allowed. Imperfections are what makes music what it is. Also, something you don't hear often are those dissonant off key quarter tones that Marshall practically sings in the chorus of Water and Air, easily one of her best songs. Those moments bring this bands music to a new and otherworldly level. No other band has evoked as much possibility and imagery as Cat Power for me personally. There is no one like this band and they are in a class all their own with their ability to take their listeners through a somewhat spiritual experience.