CD REVIEW: Melinda Gidaly - This Mortal Lust
By Ashley Petkovski - 08/29/2002 - 01:54 AM EDT
Artist: Melinda Gidaly
Album: This Mortal Lust
Van city girl Melinda Gidaly plays with verbal fire. Armed with her acoustic guitar, her bold, beautiful voice, her eloquent wit, and what she refers to as her “amazon Faery Technique,” “This Mortal Lust” is a whip smart record of vivid, poperatic melodies and a firm kick in the back-end of the female singer-songwriter stereotype.
It’s Melinda’s voice, harnessing power and fragility, sass and sexiness, Broadway and barroom, that grabs you at the beginning of each track. She has shaped her songs in a sort of mini-rock opera fashion, perfect for showing off her vocal capabilities. Melodic swings, twists and turns, shifts in tempo, dynamics and intensity levels, make each song stand as an individual, planting its own dramatic feet into the solid ground. Borrowing heavily (and probably unintentionally) from style most recently coined by my boy Rufus Wainwright as Popera, “This Mortal Lust” is infused with a stylish pop sensibility, but played up by a distinctly theatrical style. On occasion, the instrumentation is overshadowed by Melinda’s sheer performance power. Gradually, however, the exact words that she delivers become clear and draw attention away from any chords that seem to be a bit too sparse for the sheer strength of the vocal delivery.
An impassioned writer from a very early age, Melinda uses the relationships surrounding her as her lyrical subject matter, putting the words of the women and men that we all eventually find in our lives into her soaring songs. Probably one of the finest, most creative songwriters that I’ve come across recently, Melinda captures truthful emotion at its frailest, feistiest and funniest. Her last track is at least ten minutes long, primarily spoken word (not Jello Biafra-esque ranting), and complete with a few minutes about a self proclaimed bum. The middle of the disc offers what I consider to be Melinda’s most, shall we say, outward sense of lyrical diversity. How many musicians do you know that can go from - “Pretend policeman thinks he can/Strike up conversation with me somehow he doesn’t see/That in my supreme alienation/ All I think, ‘Is his cock under preservation?’” (Beautiful South) - to - “You can’t beat Mass Hysteria or this Girl Deleria/For sticking to your ribs and then calling you/Home I never lost my mind It was my smile I/Tried to find No bleak garden here Existensia’s/Calling you her own” (Every Heart A Home) - within the same ten minutes? Melinda isn’t afraid of taking a unique perspective in each of her songs. By the end of the record, her viewpoints and her wit are what stick with you.
With influences like Jewel and Beth Orton contributing to the softer side of “This Mortal Lust,” Melinda also provides firecracker and spiritual sister of all things Olympia circa 1991, Liz Phair, as another major inspiration. It shows, too. Not just another girl with a guitar sitting in a folk club wailing away, Melinda has an edge. Although she has a definite sweet, poetic side, she puts energy and passion into her craft, something much more akin to her rockin’ roots than the aural mush of her “genre” partners. It’s 100% musical firepower.
Once you put Melinda Gidaly’s pieces together - her voice, her words, her sonic flair for the dramatic and, yes, her firepower, - you find “This Mortal Lust.” Ten tracks of beauty, humor, and of course, lust, it’s one step closer to getting your head around that mysterious little “Amazon Faery Technique” of hers.
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