Lisa Germano | Review
Spin Magazine | Sia Michel
She values mood and texture over structure1996
Excerpts from a Love Circus
In one painful scene in Welcome to the Dollhouse, “grade-grubbing” Dawn wiener degrades herself as she stumbles through an oral report on dignity. On Excerpts from a Love Circus, Lisa Germano proclaims “I suck dignity” like a card-carrying member of the Special People’s Club. Dawn and Lisa are our sacrificial Wiener Dogs: They suck so we don't have to. The difference is, Dawn can’t help it; pushing 40, Germano rubs our noses in her misery with the desperation of someone convinced her loserdom is the only noteworthy thing about her. Her brilliant last album, 1994’s Geek the Girl, welcomed you to the bell jar with creepily beautiful apologias for the “angry and dumb and not too cool.” She couldn’t get past cult status though: Beck was the Loser, baby, and, more important, Courtney Love was bringing grrrl attitude to the mainstream. You oughta know how much such anthems are sounding increasingly escapist and phony; Germano captures a reality of deep-rooted self-disgust and masochism many women are too ashamed to admit to in a supposed era of empowerment. “What is Victoria's Secret?” she breathlessly repeats like it’s the mystery of the age.
A Syd Barret fan who once played violin with John Mellencamp, Germano’s musical sensibility is borderline schizophrenic, and I mean that as a compliment. She values mood and texture over structure, and lets her lyrics lead her music, whether into autistic repetition or dead-end labyrinths. "You're not my Yoko Ono / You said those words to me," she sings in “Love-sick” while distorted violins shape a snake-charmer dance that suddenly erupts into a nails-on-chalkboard screech. At times she manipulates the mikes to make her voice sound like it’s coming over a suicide hotline at 4 A.M.; on “ I love a Snot,” she laments her “tubby tubby butt” and “icky icky breath” with the bratty sing-song of an inner-child prodigy.
Eventually, the overwhelming pathos makes you what to stuff some 'zac down her throat. The disturbing thing is, she might just like it. “I hate you cause I love you,” she sings to the sadistic ringmaster of her twisted Love Circus, “I liked it when you hurt me.” In her most optimistic song, “Big Big World,” Germano dreams that one day she can learn to love herself. It’s all a Wiener Dog can do.