By Al Kaufman
It would be easy to just throw Bitch into the “another Ani DiFranco” category. After all, she’s a political, lesbian singer with a good sense of humor and a militant following. Both singers use alternative tunings and get the most out of their instruments.
But DiFranco’s instrument of choice is the guitar and Bitch’s is the violin. She began her training after seeing a man in overalls play the violin on “Sesame Street” when she was just four years old. She went on to become classically trained and formed the punk/folk duo Bitch and Animal, which released albums on DiFranco’s Righteous Babe label. After her personal and professional break-up with Animal, she began a relationship with L Word actress Daniela Sea and produced folk icon Ferron’s last CD, Boulder. Her time with Ferron and her break-up with Daniela fueled her latest CD, Blasted.
The results are Bitch’s best album to date. Opening track, “Kitchen,” with its loose, sing-along feel, would be a huge radio hit if disc jockeys were able to say the singer’s name on the air. It’s a happy, hand-clapping pop song about a tired person remembering her past friends fondly, and past loves not as much. “Our love was an ocean/Now you’re swimming out to the sea/Crossed it to get away from me.” But lyrics that appear maudlin on paper feel empowering in the high-energy song that sounds like it was literally recorded around a kitchen table.
That’s not to say Bitch doesn’t still occasionally get heavy-handed. When she spits out lines like, “The sky’s about to open up, and so am I,” the urge to cringe is hard to resist. Yet a song like “Afghanistan,” whose title alone makes one think the song will be about a subtle as an anvil landing on Wile E. Coyote’s head, gets its message across mostly from the angry cacophony that Bitch is able to emit from her violin. She gets even angrier on “Bugs,” a break-up song in which she firmly entrenches herself as the Eddie Van Halen of the electric violin.
Yes, Bitch throws her emotions out there in anger and loneliness, but has done so in a more palpable way this time. Liz Kelly on drums and Gabriel K on bass keep the rhythms moving along, giving the listener something to focus on in addition to Bitch’s angst. And there are some downright gorgeous melodies here, most notably on “Blasted” and “The Rain Is the Only Thing That’s Clear.”
The CD closes with “Staying Alive.” Yup, it’s a Bee Gee’s song, but it is all but unrecognizable in Bitch’s hands. Playing the ukulele, Bitch turns the disco hit into a folk song about grit, determination, and hope. Who knew the brothers Gibb were so deep and complex?
Bitch plays Bellissima on Tuesday, March 23.