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Music Review: Lisa Germano – Lullaby for Liquid Pig

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Lisa Germano views life from its ragged edges, and sends back her dispatches as gossamer whispers wrapped in wine-soaked irony. Startling by virtue of its simplicity, her music wafts dreamily through dimly lit corridors inhabited by demons we’d rather not face. She’s so beguiling, speaking like a waif, her voice punctuated by an almost random piano or discordant calliope, it takes a moment to realize these are cautionary tales born of confession.

The beauty of Germano’s work doesn’t lie in lyrics couched in regret or redemption — it’s in her almost whimsical resignation to whatever particular hell she may be observing. Her last CD, In the Maybe World, was one of the best (and one of the more obscure) albums of 2006. It masterfully dealt with finality, or more exactly, that transcendent area between the dimensions of life and death. Quiet and haunting, it was an oddly optimistic work that was never intended to broach the top forty. Critics, myself included, largely praised it, but it found only a limited audience.

The reissue of 2003’s Lullaby for Liquid Pig represents something of a prologue to In the Maybe World, as well as explaining what could have been perceived as a nearly eight year gap between Germano’s recordings. Originally released on the ARTISTdirect imprint, it received glowing reviews at the time. However, the label shut down shortly after, and the album went out of print and into obscurity. Fortunately, Young God, Germano’s current label, has re-released it in a handsome 2-disc package that includes home recordings and live performances.

Lullaby for Liquid Pig, like the later In the Maybe World, is a themed album. But where the latter dealt with finality, Pig explores obsession and addiction in its various incarnations. It’s not that she’s seeking redemption — it’s more like she’s inviting guests into her parlor to share a drink and reminisce about mutual frailties. It’s my favorite feeling/not there .what a good place to be/too bad it’s still raining inside, she quietly giggles against a wash of little girl music boxes on “Candy,” celebrating her relationship with alcohol, but lamenting at the close, “too bad I got nowhere today.” She shrugs it off, leaving us feeling a bit awkward, but fascinated by her candor.

If she’s angry, it’s only at her own shortcomings, and she usually buries them so deeply in her whispered whimsies that when they do surface, they elicit empathy rather than sympathy. In Germano’s corner of the universe, demons cavort with angels, with neither faction wrestling for the upper hand. Neither can exist without the other, so they resort to using the psyche as their playground. In “Liquid Pig,” the demon is “a freak magnet,” attracting enabling partiers, but in “Lullaby for Liquid Pig,” the pig has attained angel status. Without you here/without your love/the world is just there/it doesn’t move me.

It’s not as bleak as it sounds at first glance. Germano is a brilliant tour guide, pointing out little cracks of joy nestled here and there in her sometimes neurotic meanderings. In fact, it all has a bit of a carnival atmosphere, dominated by Neil Finn’s eerie optigon renderings playing off Germano’s fractured piano runs. Johnny Mar and Craig Ross add guitar nuances, and Wendy Melvoin, along with Butch and Joey Waronker, keep the percussion effective but subdued. Sebastian Steinberg’s flowing bass imbues the entire affair with an otherworldly spirit.

At its core, Lullaby for Liquid Pig, like In the Maybe World, is a paean to the future. Even at its darkest moments, it finds a sense of balance in the absurdities of life. What results is an album that at scarcely thirty minutes, speaks volumes about coping with the pitfalls and pratfalls of addictions and obsessions. In the end, it’s a fluffy pillow to comfort you in your darkest thoughts. And that’s not such a bad way to fall asleep.

The bonus disc on this reissue is far from filler. The live performances offer a more intimate portrait of Lisa Germano, affording us a glimpse of he self-deprecating sense of humor, and the home recordings and alternate takes sometimes outshine the final version. The most odd aspect of the bonus disc, however, is that it’s almost twice as long as the album itself. No matter. Lisa Germano is a voice who beckons you into recesses of the soul. And once you’ve explored them, you emerge a little bit better for the journey.

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