There is always something gratifying about a woman striking a discordant chord towards positive social and political change. After all, these are the days when America vies for a female president. Never more than now is that Helen-Reddy-cry so prevalent: “I am woman hear me roar. Cheesy as it might sound, it still rings true. There is power in the roar. But what is Mary Halvorson, the lead composer, improviser and vocalist from People roaring about on their new album, Misbegotten Man? Here lies the rub – there must be substance in the call.
Misbegotten Man, teeming with song titles like “Urban Fable #1: The Accidental Ruin of A Romantic Populist” and “Biomimicry of The Social Body,” feels more like teen angst than progress. People tries to balance itself somewhere on the line between contemporary iazz and indie pop, but has neither the undercurrent of structure that Miles Davis has nor the saving tongue-in-cheek quality of consummate indie bands like The Magnetic Fields, for instance. With words like “eponymous” and phrases like “the threshold of drama” running rampant throughout the album, one is left wanting for essence behind the seemingly intellectual vocabulary.
Halvorson, when she is not screeching, has a beautiful voice. Sometimes sounding like a bird calling from a far-off forest or a warbler by a river, snow white even. I’m left feeling like “give me more of this lyricism” and less of “the age of human genomes.” Cries against the world are often more crisp when they show us an alternative, instead of mimicking the dissonance that already exists within it.