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CD Review: Superbeautifulmonster by Bif Naked

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Bif Naked is currently on tour in the US promoting her Superbeaurifulmonster CD. In a recent MySpace bulletin, she playfully dubbed this series of performances the “super beautiful mons-tour” (or the word could have been accidentally truncated). In either case I thought it was funny and that is really like Bif’s sense of humor through and through. With three albums to her credit as well as TV and movie roles, she is one of the most easily recognized performers in Canada. She is a beautiful punk rock princess no doubt, but she is also a really cool person. I won’t go into her bio facts here because all that information is available in the interview that I did with her last year.

I want to approach reviewing this CD from a slightly different perspective than I usually do with major recording artists because I spent that hour or so getting to know her during the interview. As it turned out, I did the interview before I had a chance to listen to the CD and so, when I did listen to it, I think that having talked to her about herself beforehand lent a whole different dimension to the music for me, and I want to try to share that insight here. Is it accurate? I don’t know, but it sort of seemed like I could see pieces of her personality in most of the songs, like her sense of humor, her attitude, and her world view, and it was a lot of fun to listen to the music from that perspective.

For example, the first song on the CD, “Abandonment,” is seemingly just a lament over a lost lover and feelings of being left behind — pretty much a state we have all been in at one time or another. But I wondered if the emotion behind this song had anything to do with leftover feelings from Bif’s own childhood since I knew she was adopted by missionaries. See what I mean? The second song, “Let Down”, is classic punk. The theme is a girl living in her parents’ basement with her two guitars and a rock ‘n’ roll dream long after her parents’ patience has run out and the rest of the world has moved on. Bif told me last year that her own dad still asks her when she is going to go back to school and become a doctor.

“Everyday”, track #3 on the CD, slows the tempo down a little bit to offer the advice that you should “live each day as though it were your last one.” I think the lyrics themselves are very good prose and again, it is part of Bif. She has spent a lot of time pondering religion and spirituality and has gotten to a place that she is comfortable with. The advice in this song is probably a distillation of the beliefs that she lives by. You can see this part of her reflected in the notes on the liner jacket of this CD and also all over her body. Quite a few of her prodigious number of tattoos are words and symbols with a spiritual connotation.

The next song, “Yeah You,” is way cool in my opinion. The lyrics and theme are very simple. It is a song about love or lust and it has a fun score behind it. What really makes the song cool though is where she puts the emphasis in the line “you make me come, all undone”. You just have to hear it, I guess.

So guys, do you want to know what it might be like to have Bif as your girlfriend? In the next song, “That’s Life With Me,” she tells you. Based on the information in the song it sounds like it might not be such a bad life. That song is followed by Bif’s cover of the Metallica song “Nothing Else Matters”. She told me that she is a huge Metallica fan herself and so this song being on her CD is just another part of who she is. It sounds unusual at first to hear her doing this song but she does a good job with it and I ended up liking her version as much as, and almost as a different song than, the Metallica version.

The song “I Want” is pretty much a lead-in to the song that follows it, “Funeral of a Good Girl”. They are both about the female being the agressor in a sexual encounter. For these two she picks the tempo up and gets her cocky, punk attitude back into gear. I know from experience that she has a large group of prettty ardent male fans out there (including the husband of a friend of mine) and I bet these two songs (out of all of the songs on this CD) have inspired a few fantasies among those fans.

The next three songs are all sort of written somewhat loosely within the context of a common theme. In “Henry”, she is a woman in control of her own destiny and is telling “Henry” that he just hasn’t measured up. She has tried, but in the end it is time for him to move on and she doesn’t need him to support her or their child. I think it is a cool attitude. In “The World Is Over” she sings about feelings after the breakup and again I really like the prose quality/imagery in this song. It is the sad perspective after a breakup. In “The Question Song,” she goes to the other end of the emotional spectrum and adresses the cause of the breakup. The song starts with the word “Busted!” and if we put Henry into it then we know why he isn’t welcome anymore.

The last two songs on the CD are kind of a departure from everything else on it. “Ladybug Waltz” is a pretty song themed just like it sounds, about ladybugs in one sense and using a ladybug as a vehicle to express feelings in another. Kinda deep I suppose, but a pretty song nonetheless. The final cut, “After A While” is about pain and a place of security in a mad world, in which it is so easy to “never feel good enough,” about the person behind the self-assured, grinning mask that we wear for public consumption. Is that too about Bif? I don’t know, I never saw that part of her. Remember these interpretations of her songs are mine and maybe not at all what she intended. If that is the case, then you go ahead and make your own interpretations. In any case, it is good music from a very talented artist.

Bif will be playing Rothko in NYC this coming Saturday (April 22nd) at 8 PM. Yes, I will be there too, so if you are in the city, come on out; I know it will be a good time. The rest of her tour schedule is available on her MySpace page. You can probably pick up a copy of Superbeautifulmonster at the show, at your local music store, or through Amazon via the link on this page. Finally, if you are in a band yourself, I ought to mention that her record label, Bodog Music is currently sponsoring a million dollar “battle of the bands” in the US so if you want to join in the battle you can get more info at Bodog’s Myspace site.

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About Mike Johnston