Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Suzanne Vega 4: 99.9 F°

With this album Suzanne took a big leap out of folk into pop. While 99.9 F° has a couple of voice-and-acoustic duets, most of the production spotlights a much louder band than the guys she had before. Unfortunately, Crowded House and Los Lobos cohort Mitchell Froom was that producer. Fortunately, he brought along Richard Thompson, session rat Jerry Marotta on drums and Attractions exile Bruce Thomas all over the bass.
Some of the “new” sounds are refreshing, and nicely complement her lyrics, which vary between straight and vague, as ever. “Rock In This Pocket (Song Of David)” is sung from the point of view of Goliath’s opponent. “Blood Makes Noise” was the first single, heavy on the bass and delivered at a speed that doesn’t suit her, really. “In Liverpool” is a melancholy reverie with an expansive arrangement, but the title track goes back to a noisy loop. There’s finally a quiet one in “Blood Sings” (where she’s backed by some of her old band members), but that’s contrasted with the nightmare circus of “Fat Man And Dancing Girl”.
“(If You Were) In My Movie” is unnecessarily parenthetical and a little underdeveloped. “As A Child” is more appealing, and the same can definitely be said about “Bad Wisdom”. Compared to the first song on her previous album, it’s another song directed at a “mother”, only this time something has definitely gone wrong in the person’s life. With all the talk of blood and doctors on the album, and the climate in which it was created, AIDS was the assumption, but as it turns out, it’s a different kind of child abuse. Other reviewers have made the Bangles comparison for “When Heroes Go Down”, a wonderfully short pop song that proves she’s sound great singing the phone book. “As Girls Go” could easily be a track off the then-recent Crowded House or Richard Thompson albums, but it’s matched well to her. “Song Of Sand” has a string quartet, and then it’s over.
Again, much of the production gets in the way of 99.9 F°, but it was nice to know she couldn’t be so easily pigeonholed. It’s a short but varied album, and still a pleasant diversion.

Suzanne Vega 99.9 F° (1992)—3

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