Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jane Siberry Gives Everything to You Free

Photo used under Creative Commons from Foxtongue

I try not to be a nostalgic old duffer. I like to mix up something old with something new, and I certainly harbour no illusions that music made in the 80s was all fun or carefree or good. When I stumbled across the news that Jane Siberry is giving away all 13 of her albums for free on her web site, my first thought was, cool! Then I considered the fact that I hadn't heard anything about Siberry for a long, long time, and hadn't especially wanted to. And I'm pretty sure some of my readers don't want to hear about her either, because if it doesn't include at least a glimmering of punk, metal or alt country, they're backing away and making the sign of the cross. Maybe upside down.

But One More Colour is a great pop song, and I only appreciated it more when people like the Rheostatics and Sarah Polley covered it. Calling All Angels with kd lang? A thing of beauty, pure and simple. Mimi On the Beach is cool quirky artpop, I can imagine Adrian Belew doing a fine cover. In fact, I realized Siberry made a lot of good precious pop that I really enjoy in small doses, including tracks such as Bound by the Beauty, Map of the World, The Walking (And Constantly), Ingrid and the Footman.

But if you make sometimes pretentious, oft-unusual pop that sometimes includes vocal passages that sound like spoken word, not everyone is going to jump on board. Siberry appeared in videos with creepy bovine hand puppets reading a magazine and pouring tea, wore viking horns, and pranced around extra-fake sets with distracting, eye-burning neons (the true scourge of the 80s?), forever labelling her as momentary silliness alongside Men without Hats for some, I'm sure.

But I can't think of a lot of women in Canada 20 to 30 years ago who were so boldly following their own vision. Lisa Dal Bello, maybe. Mary Margaret O'Hara had the eccentric, living on a planet of her own creation thing down, but only put out one real album in 1988. No one else comes to mind right now except much more run-of-the-mill artists like Luba or Lee Aaron, unless I can include Martha and the Muffins, who were much better than you think.

Siberry has continued to follow her own muse, changing her stage name to Issa, making more subtle music with less clever hooks, and distributing her own music online in manners seen as groundbreaking by some wags.

One More Colour - Jane Siberry by scruffy the yak

jane siberry (with k.d. lang) - calling all angels by SoSIA

Ingrid And The Footman - Jane Siberry by scruffy the yak

The Walking (And Constantly) - Jane Siberry by scruffy the yak

So what do you think? Does Siberry deserve to be reconsidered? I don't think there are a lot of Canadian artists that have made their own brand of uncompromising music for such a long time. Please leave a comment below, let me hear your voice, even if you're an annoyed metalhead.

And for you bangers, check out Moby's new metal band Diamondsnake. Real?!? metal, with squealing, snarling vocals, big dumb riffs, and song entitled Storm the Fuckin’ Kastle, We Want to Love You, What the World Needs Now is Rock, and Woman, Yeah. \m/

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