Review Summary: Sense your bullshit from my bedroom.I’m Not Your Man
wastes very little time in taking whatever preconceptions the listener may have had of English singer-songwriter Marika Hackman – last seen producing a very twee, very fey, very good record of pastoral indie folk – and setting them completely aflame. “I’ve got your boyfriend on my mind,” she sings in first single “Boyfriend”, all ricocheting, churning ‘90s alt-rock guitar, and Hackman’s throaty whisper: “I think you know she stayed with me last night / I held his world in my hands / I threw it out to see where it would land.” The guitars pick up, tension building towards a delirious release, and, yes, that’s an honest-to-God, swaggering bulldozer of a chorus, punctuated by a knowing wink: “It’s fine cause I am just a girl / ‘it doesn’t count’ / he knows a woman needs a man to make her shout.” That guitar shrieks to a climax of feedback, positively blowing away any memories of 2015’s We Slept At Last
. That record positioned Hackman as the next Laura Marling; I’m Not Your Man
positions her as a worthy successor to ass-kickers like PJ Harvey or Liz Phair. It’s a beautiful re-imagining of what Hackman is capable of, and by placing her innate melodic gifts in a (Brit)poppier context, establishes her as one of the most distinctive voices in indie today.
Enlisting London quartet the Big Moon as as backing band, I'm Not Your Man
rips out Hackman's folk roots and examines them in a harsh yet blindingly colorful light. The haunting fever dream of “Gina’s World” wanders erratically through a shoegaze landscape before exploding into a sunset almost too bright to look at, Hackman’s lyrics toeing the line between hallucination and a very painful truth. As a songwriter, she has never been more assured; where the jangly “My Lover Cindy” echoes Belle & Sebastian and Girls, she subverts the classicism with a wry dose of self-deprecation and a disregard of traditional gender roles that is a hallmark of the record. “But I’m a lousy lover, even if I try / I can go for a couple of weeks and the feeling’s calcified,” she sings, before plunging recklessly ahead anyways: “Cause I’m a fu
cking pig / I’m gonna get my fill / I’m gonna keep my eyes on the prize / and I’ll suck you dry, I will.”
These widescreen compositions and dedication to a playground sense of looseness, of fun, give Hackman and the Big Moon the opportunity to stretch out for some truly immense choruses, from “So Long’s “ jilted lover thunderously rejecting excuses alongside a cavernous hook (with a caveat: “I’ll keep you in my bed tonight”) to the borderline clichéd sing-along of “Time’s Been Reckless.” Hackman’s voice retains a charming, somewhat removed quality to it all, as if she is narrating these romantic misadventures with a healthy sense of context and a slightly raised eyebrow. On the spare, stormy “Violet,” she relates a sexual adventure with acerbic detachment combined with increasingly violent imagery; when it eventually explodes into a bluesy, snarling catharsis, there’s even something a bit frightening about her total control.
There are traces of We Slept At Last
remaining, most notably in the winding, woozy “Round We Go” and its poetic metaphors, and in the Ren Faire-inspired trad-folk of the ethereal “Apple Tree.” This is, however, an almost entirely different record than what came before, swapping a quieter, more embellished sound for a confident and visceral exploration of Hackman’s impulses and fu
ck-ups. It’s a roiling, overpowering emotional mixture, and it fits right in with what I’m Not Your Man
wants to accomplish: a forthright treatise on sexuality and relationships, told with an uncanny sense of comedic timing and a penchant for reaching for the throat with its hooks, arrangements, and, most resoundingly, its lyrics.
Oddly enough, though, it’s the record’s quietest numbers that hit this message home. “Cigarette,” a slight acoustic track about a snapshot in the long course of a relationship’s disintegration, is striking in its unvarnished intimacy. “You’re in the parking lot, I’m in the car; it’s locked / I didn’t want to let you in / when did it get so forced? Drunk by the second course / you’re never gonna let me win / and I tried to hold my tongue / but you, you yanked it from my grip / bathed it in petroleum, lit a cigarette and gave it a kiss.” It’s spartan and shocking in both the accompaniment – only a trace of viola weaves along through the background – and in its emotional nakedness. In closer “I’d Rather Be With Them,” meanwhile, the cocksure and bold narrator of the previous twelve tracks comes face to face with the lies she tells herself to keep moving on. Hackman is mired in decay, “stale tongues” and “smoky spit and heavy lungs” describing a relationship going nowhere, but these cracks refuse to be painted over. “You say: ‘look at the people / crawling like insects / all over the pavements’ / I’d rather be with them / cause I just hate this room, it smells like you,” the chorus goes. “I’m so fu
cking heartless / I can’t even cry / I’ve opened my body, it’s hollow inside / so ring up my parents / and tell them I’m dead / and say how you left me and fu
cked with my head / and I just hate your hair, and the clothes you wear / and I just love your hair, and the clothes you wear.” It’s hopelessly torn and confused, all full of bile and regret, piercingly candid and desperately sad. Like the rest of the record, it’s jaw dropping in the images it describes and the feelings it evokes, a black-and-white photograph for the listener to gawk at. That kind of honesty is rare and touching, the appropriate conclusion for a record obsessed with letting it all hang out. Like the rest of I’m Not Your Man
, it feels like a privilege to be invited to listen in.