Lisa Germano | Review

Pittsburgh Post Gazette | Ed Masley

Songwriter Lisa Germano puts honesty first

Friday, June 20, 2003
Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic
In "Nobody's Playing," the melancholy opener to "Lullaby for Liquid Pig," Lisa Germano rhymes "places to drown" with "all that you feel is you're going down."
Other songs on one of this year's more unsettling treasures deal with addiction both to alcohol and friends.
 Germano knows this kind of effort isn't "everybody's cup of tea." That doesn't bother her. What bothers her is the people who like it but find it depressing or dark.
"I want it to be something that you feel good to listen to," she says. "I don't want it to be hard. I just think it depends what you're going through. If you're going through some of these things, I don't know if you'd feel devastated as much as you would go, 'Gosh, other people feel this way.' I always think of it as being a little more uplifting, actually, to know that other people are dealing with some stuff."
 The key, she says, is to actually listen to the record.
 "I just think it's kind of a tough thing to take the time to listen to," Germano says. "And I don't mean tough like painful. I just mean who's got the patience these days? You know, unless you're reviewing it or you get it for a radio station, everything is quick, quick, quick. I don't think people spend enough time with each record that they get to get it."
Or it could be, it's suggested, that the album is just so honest that it makes some listeners uncomfortable.
 "OK," she says, "so why is that? And I've had problems with friends in my life because they've told me, 'Geez, sometimes I just like to [mess] up. I don't want you to point out to me what I'm doing.' I guess I point it out by being honest or something, and it [makes them angry]. I don't understand it. To me, communication is so important -- to say what you think. But they want their friends to be fun. They don't want their friends to make them think about themselves."
 It hasn't been much of a problem lately, though.
 As Germano explains with a laugh, "I don't have very many friends anymore, so I don't worry about it a whole lot."
She was thinking of friendships when she started writing "Lullaby for Liquid Pig" and "just trying to figure out why I'm so lonely and why other people are so lonely."
 All her albums start that way, as something she needs answers to.
 "But then I work on these songs," she says, "and I edit them to the point where to me, I feel like I'm getting rid of a lot of the personal stuff. People say my music is very personal, but I actually don't see it that way. I think it's personal when you take it personally, when you ingest it and you relate to it. I don't even finish the song or put the record out until I feel, 'I just know other people feel this way. I just know it.' Why else would I put out a record?"
 She'd still write the music, though, if only for the answers.
 "Sometimes just by posing questions," she explains, "you're getting answers. Not like 'There's the answer,' but the actual creative process of writing is an answer in a way. It's a healing thing. The feeling is just so strong when that happens that I feel it's important to share it. I feel that there's some reason I'm writing about this. I would love to write pop songs. I would love to. But this is what comes out."
 The first three songs she wrote for "Lullaby for Liquid Pig" were alcohol-related.
 But only at first.
 "I was trying to mock my behavior so I could look at it differently," she says. "That's even how I came up with the title, 'Lullaby for Liquid Pig.' To me, it's not ha-ha funny but it's a mockery of your actions. And then as I started writing songs, I realized, no, it's not actually about alcohol. It's about what's under that. It's about why would you turn to alcohol or friendships or anything that you're counting on that you're so thirsty for that you need it more than your own self-respect and love. I always hate when people just put it in this alcohol box, because it's so boring. It's got a lot more stuff underneath than that. And some of the songs ended up kind of sounding like they're about alcohol, but they're not."
 The title cut, for instance.
 When she sings "I need a fix," she means a man, not drugs or alcohol.
 "I was just dying," she says. "I needed to hear this person's voice, and it was just devastating that he left. So obviously, you need a person too much when you get that sick when they leave, right?"
 The album's emotional essence really comes down to the moment in "Nobody's Playing" where she sighs, "No one can tell you what you won't hear."
 As Germano explains, it's all about "pretending you're trying to sleep, and your eyes are wide open and you're finally seeing a lot of behavior that you've been doing. You finally go, 'Hey, why would anybody want to hang around you when you don't listen to anything?' "
 She spent 2 1/2 years working on the songs that would become the album (when she wasn't working at the book store or with Neil Finn or the Eels).
 "I was actually really busy," she says of the five-year break between releases. "And I would come home and work on these songs and I never knew if I was gonna make it into a record until I wrote this last song, 'From a Shell,' and I really like how it changed the whole idea of the record, to me, for some reason. And then I went, 'Ohhhh, I think I've got a record here. I guess I've gotta finish it.' I don't see any rush. I think there's too much music out there. That might sound really stupid, but people aren't finishing things. They aren't seeing things through. They're putting records out too quickly, and there's just too much."