No elephants is Lisa Germano’s new album. no elephantswas produced, recorded and mixed by Jamie Candiloro at Banana Chicken Studios. It was written and played by Lisa Germano, some bees, cell phones, a bunch of animals; Candiloro created drum loops and unearthly sounds, and Sebastian Steinberg played acoustic bass. Executive producers: Rocco and Betty Germano. Like her other nine albums, no elephantsis made like a book to read to the end. There is foreshadowing from melodies and ideas that weave the record’s story together, and it takes time and imagination from the reader/listener. Unfortunately, few people these days take the time to make or listen to an album created as a whole piece, but no elephantsis short and worthy of the attention paid. “Making a record any other way doesn’t work for me,” she says. no elephants is being release by Badman Recording Co. February 12, 2013.
This is a deeply felt, simply and beautifully orchestrated music whose dulcet charms, when scratched, reveal an ineffable glow. While Lisa’s lyrics can be forcefully literal, they’re also gratifyingly figurative; as pure music, her songs offer a resonantly oblique time and place. Such a feeling resounds on the opening track, “Ruminants,” a pensive lullabye that has, Lisa says, something to do with the natural order to this world that the human race has messed up, especially in how we treat animals and the earth itself. “My communication with myself, the earth andi ts beings is getting weirder every day,” comments Germano. “If I could replace all theshit in my head, my troubles relating to humans and the earth’s beings’ troubles relating back to me…I think that’s what this record is about.”
The title track occupies a minor-key space where Lisa watches “the world getting filled up with a lot of nothing” — a song, she says, about being displaced and not seeing one’s own worth…And then there’re the bees, she says, whose magical dance of pollination is being challenged by the interfering vibrations of the digital devices we humans clutch so fiercely to our quivering breasts. We ought to take that song at face value at first, then speculate on its particulars: alienation, identity, a troubling new view of humanity.
Questions always, values, morals, ethics, beliefs: The very close listener could attempt to boil Lisa Germano’s complexities down and say that her songs, well, they’re about feelings. She wishes to probe her self and those she loves in a cathartic, cutting way; she seeks as well to comfort. There’s a song called “Back to Earth” that is delicacy defined (“Fraidy cat…I need someone to take me home”). There’s “A Feast”: Should she just sit quietly at the banquet with her unconscious friends or mention the cruelty of foie gras, suckling pigs and ivory vases, thus ruining the feast for all?
Lisa strives toward simple communication, but she knows that’s simply not possible. She flows musical metaphors, songs that position piquant chords and textures to paint one straightforward scenario even as it becomes a metaphor for another. A track entitled “Apathy and the Devil” decries joykillers: “As I feel my heart receding / they love to watch me stop believing.” “And So On” begins with we humans breaking each other’s hearts, torturing each other emotionally, and that ill wind blows out into the world as we torture and break the hearts of our animals. These stories/songs come finely shaded with the unexpected, things that couldn’t be contrived in a formal writing process, like the wordless “Dance of the Bees,” another expressively in-between terrain plagued with locusts of noise from the electronic gear we accumulate to aid our “communication” with others, and with ourselves. In “Diamonds” Germano’s subconscious executes new tonal structures; we are all alchemists when we make something beautiful out of something ugly.
“When I’m gone in my head / cover me.” We belong to ourselves, and we all belong together, and we are all pretty strange, comes right down to it. And pre-, post-, in the middle, nowhere, everywhere, the mental states and emotional planes Lisa Germano evokes smoke with intensity of feeling, at minimum the intensity of trying to remember how to feel. In “Last Straws for Sale,” she wonders how lonely and dark will it be when there are really none left to buy: “One more the end / into the wind again”
Lisa Germano’s records are like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, stories set in a magical place where darker messages for the soul can be pondered if so desired. Lisa is known to a worldwide fan cult for a series of savagely honest and musically intrepid solo albums that commenced in the early ’90s for the 4AD label, including the cynical debut Happinessin 1994 and the sexual-warfare-running-amok Geek the Girl, also from ’94 (which was included in Spin’s top 100 records of the 1990s). A series of follow-up records found her exploring with widening musical palettes some of the farther reaches of the scary rock-as-catharsis world. Also known as a multi-instrumentalist with such diverse artists as Eels, David Bowie, Crowded House, Philip Selway (Radiohead), Indigo Girls, John Mellencamp and Giant Sand, Lisa plays most of the instruments and music on her records, giving them even more direct emotion from the storyteller.