By Jessica Hopper
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Solar is a lively violation of what we predict we all know approximately her, content material to teach us a distinct form of discontent. SWF, forty five: MECCA NORMAL’S THE OBSERVER Chicago Reader, April 2006 Mecca Normal’s new album, The Observer, is difficult to hear. no longer for the standard reasons—it doesn’t suck. What makes it tricky going is identical factor that makes it nice: subtitled “A Portrait of the Artist on-line Dating,” it’s so mercilessly own it’s tough to think it could possibly exist within the pop-music market, not to mention at any place outdoors of a diary. an idea album approximately Jean Smith’s romantic lifestyles as a unmarried girl of forty five, it develops a grim, intimate photograph of the solitary fight for connection that doesn’t pass effortless on anyone—not Smith, now not the lads she dates and positively no longer the viewers. The pop canon is stuffed with songs approximately romantic longings and screw ups, in order that we’ve been conditioned to anticipate yes tale arcs, introduced in each one genre’s codified language—blues and its backdoor males, modern R&B and its child boos, vintage rock and its lonely lodge rooms. There’s excitement in having our sufferings and hopes reaffirmed, despite the fact that nearly, via such archetypes. yet Mecca common, the Vancouver duo of Smith and guitarist David Lester, have spent 20 years hammering away at musical and social conference. They’re openly political artists—anarchist-feminists either, they’ve constructed a touring workshop known as “How artwork and tune Can swap the World”—and their free, abrasive, drumless songs don’t relaxation simply in any style. or even coming from them, The Observer is startling. after we hearken to tune it’s ordinary to aim to narrate to the singer’s adventure or inhabit it as our personal, yet getting invited alongside on Smith’s blind dates and hookups is discomfiting to assert the least—as a storyteller, she skips the niceties and simply plunks every thing down at the desk. “He attempts to place the condom on / He curses / i attempt to see what he's doing,” she sings in her low, acidic croon. “But I’m pinned underneath him / I pay attention him stretching the condom like he’s creating a balloon animal. ” All yet a number of the album’s 12 songs are attached to its simple subject matter of relationships among the sexes, and part are diaristic synopses of exact dates Smith went on with males she met at Lavalife. com. She’s a pointy, literate lyricist, prosaic instead of melodic—right now she’s at paintings on her fourth novel—and her cognizance to element and indifferent, acerbic tone make The Observer a very apt identify. although every one diary track is a separate scene, with each one guy allowed his personal details, they’re unified via Smith’s blunt portrayal of herself—we know about her as a date, not only an artist, and he or she makes a messy, inconsistent impact, veering from cynical and judgmental to petulant and needy. at the album’s centerpiece, the 12-minute “Fallen Skier,” she skips among snippets of dinner dialog and an inner monologue approximately her date, a 47-year-old pupil and improving addict who describes himself as a “fallen waiter/ski bum/party man.