Lisa Germano | Review
Spin Magazine | Lorraine Ali
raw, discordant drones, and music-box prettiness1993
Listening to Lisa Germano’s smart and subtle lyrics on Happiness, it’s hard to imagine that this 29-year-old violinist once backed Bob Seger as he wheezed lines like “love to watch her strut.” The Indiana native, whose talent also survived tours and albums with John Mellencamp and Billy Joel, must have hid her complexities deep inside-that’s where Happiness comes from.
Germano’s second album- and major-label debut- possesses no squashy ditties about small towns or uptowns. Instead, it’s a mocking look at her own damaged idealism and doom-laden but humorous outlook on life. The music, which includes Middle Eastern, Celtic, and country influences in raw, discordant drones and music-box prettiness, takes a backseat to her sarcastic and often self-effacing lyrics. Germano flops down unassuming vocals and sing-to-yourself melodies as if she never expected anyone would listen to her in the first place.
In the ironically pegged title track, Germano sings, “Give it up, try again/Ain’t life fun?,” then deadpans, “C’mon everybody, sing” Even depressing and dark waves of self-doubt become funny as Germano laughs at her own insecurities. In “Bad Attitude,” she sleepily sings, “You wish you were pretty but you’re not/Ha, ha, ha.” But occasionally, her cool tones melt, exposing bruised whispers that almost signal surrender. That’s when Happiness gets really sad.
Hapiness’s most unlikely track is the mechanical cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These boots are made for walkin’.” Germano’s drawl and jaded delivery are right at home here. It makes you wonder if, over the years, she hasn’t perfected this tough persona as a means of self-preservation. That’s what sensitive people do sometimes- just ask ice-T.