Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Softer sell
The quieter side of Thalia Zedek

Boston resident Thalia Zedek has spent the last 20-plus years racking up one of the most impressive résumés in alternative rock. Her all-female outfit Dangerous Birds contributed "Smile on Your Face" to the seminal Sub Pop 100 compilation (the label’s first vinyl full-length). After the Birds disbanded in 1983, she formed Uzi, but then in 1986 she relocated to New York to join Live Skull, a noise ensemble who rubbed shoulders with Swans and Sonic Youth. In the early ’90s, she returned to Boston and along with former Codeine drummer Chris Brokaw formed Come, who recorded four albums for Matador Records.

But it’s really only been in the past few years, beginning with her 2001 solo debut, Been Here and Gone (Matador), that Zedek’s true voice as a singer and songwriter has emerged. "After Come, I started doing shows around town with just a guitar and a friend playing piano," she recalls. "I loved that quieter thing a lot, because for the first time in 20 years, I could hear myself sing. And I felt a lot more freedom, there was more room for doing subtle things." She’s like Nico and Marianne Faithfull in that her distinctive timbre and limited range work as an asset, not a detriment.

Her new Thrill Jockey album, Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness (the title came from a Chinese fortune cookie), further explores the less-is-more æsthetic; the primary accompaniments to her deep, smoky voice are guitar, viola, piano, and subtle drums. Many of these sparse arrangements are recorded to sound as if they could have been lifted off battered old 78s. And Zedek’s lyrics continue to plumb the dark themes of isolation and despair — themes that have marked most of her work. The bluesy "Bus Stop" details a relationship’s dissolution in excruciating detail. She also gets in some poignant jabs at US foreign policy on "Sailor," one of several cuts with nautical references.

Although Zedek has worked with the same core band — drummer Daniel Coughlin (from the final incarnation of Come) and multi-instrumentalist David Michael Curry — for some four years now (they’ll be performing this Wednesday at T.T. the Bear’s Place), she’s happy to remain a solo artist. The balance of power in her current set-up is "not really democratic," she admits: "Dan and Dave both have other outlets for their own music, so they recognize this is my project." Although all three participate in arranging the songs, she has the final say, and that’s how she likes it. "I don’t feel like I have to compromise to keep other people happy."

And though she made her name in some of the most abrasive outfits imaginable, her solo career has seen her return to a more traditional stance that reflects some of her earliest influences. "My parents were pretty into folk music," she remembers. "Odetta, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary." Zedek grew up into an ardent Bob Dylan fan, and the title of her previous release, the six-song 2002 EP You’re a Big Girl Now, came from her cover of that Dylan tune. Folk music, she says, "was something I liked from an early age on and then rediscovered again." Not that she ever abandoned it — even the band who inspired her to go off in a noisy direction early on, the Birthday Party, share certain ties to the American roots music scene.

What’s more, her growing confidence as a vocalist and renewed love for singer-songwriters has prompted her to sprinkle her recordings with well-chosen covers, most notably the Velvet Underground’s "Candy Says" (on Big Girl) and the rendition of Leonard Cohen’s "Dance Me to the End of Love" that was the centerpiece of Been Here and Gone. But Zedek says she’s never chosen a cover just to fill a niche in one of her albums. "They’re all songs I always loved and had rattling around my head."

Regardless, she does approach other artists’ material a little differently from her own. "It’s liberating, to not feel constrained by notions that I can only play my own songs. So many of us come from this anti–cover band mentality, and though I’m not trying to go back to that, it’s very different performing someone else’s songs. I’m doing them as a singer, not a songwriter."

On the new "Angels," Zedek sings, "I used to change faster/But now I’m always running late." Although in the context of the song the sentiment is a negative one, she admits that mellowing with age has a plus side, too. "When I was younger, I used to really enjoy change. If everything happened at once — I broke up with my girlfriend, my band split up, and I got kicked out of my apartment — I’d be like, ‘This is kind of cool!’ " With the passing of time, however, she’s developed an appreciation for a modicum of stability. "A certain persistence isn’t bad."

Thalia Zedek performs this Wednesday, November 24, at T.T. the Bear’s Place, 10 Brookline Street in Central Square, with Brother JT; call (617) 492-BEAR.

Issue Date: November 19 - 25, 2004
Back to the Music table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group