Much can be blamed on her husband’s penchant for noisy, percussive production. Where her earlier albums presented her voice and music clear and unencumbered, Nine Objects Of Desire is slathered with trendy lounge keyboards and other effects. The overall tone is more harsh than smooth, to the point where the singer takes a back seat to the mix (proof positive that having both Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas from the Attractions as your rhythm section doesn’t always guarantee success).
There are a few moments that work. “Stockings” presents a trademark tale of a mysterious woman, anchored by a smart guitar pattern and colored with a contrasting chorus, but ultimately sunk by an Arabian string section. Similarly, one wonders how much better “No Cheap Thrill” would be in a simpler arrangement without the underwater guitar. “World Before Columbus” is possibly the best track, a love song to her baby daughter treated unobtrusively by the mix. “Honeymoon Suite” is similarly understated, but the autobiographical aspects are a bit loud.
Many of the songs blend together into a generic, jazzy hum—“lounge” being the kitschy trend of the time—as demonstrated on “Caramel”, “Lolita” and “Thin Man”. “Headshots” would appear to tell another intriguing story, and “Casual Match” also sports a catchy self-harmonized chorus, but much of the potential is lost within the effects. While there’s something fetching about the way she sings the chorus for “Birth-Day (Love Made Real)”, it’s so distorted that she’s barely heard. “Tombstone” features an extreme mix, with a cool vocal, but again, it’s interchangeable with any number of Crowded House tracks.
Therefore, Nine Objects Of Desire comes off more as a Mitchell Froom album than a Suzanne Vega album. Maybe she wanted it that way, but one wishes she could have let her songs breathe without all the dressing.
Suzanne Vega Nine Objects Of Desire (1996)—2