Music » Critics' Picks

Juliana Hatfield

Sunday, August 25; Blueberry Hill's Duck Room


Most remember Juliana Hatfield either as the frontwoman for late-'80s college-rock icons the Blake Babies or as a part of the early-'90s girls-with-guitars craze (along with Belly, Elastica, Veruca Salt and the Breeders). But as our retro-sick culture prepares itself for its first wave of '90s nostalgia and a new wave of girl rockers hits the charts, Hatfield is a leading contender for rediscovery. As strange as an early-'90s revival may seem, it isn't any stranger than a career retrospective from an artist as young and vital as Hatfield, who's now touring in support of Gold Stars, a best-of CD of her solo work. With a backing band consisting of a former Blake Baby and a new collaborator, you can be sure Hatfield is going to be spanning her career in her shows.

Hatfield lists her two greatest influences as Olivia Newton-John and the Replacements, and she's not kidding: Her songs typically meld her kittenish vocals with incisive lyrics and hard guitar hooks with pure pop songcraft. Hatfield's songs can be emotionally bare or lyrically obtuse, often at the same time. Ironically for a songwriter of Hatfield's power, one of the best examples of her gifts is her cover of the Police's "Every Breath You Take." She lays a layer of menace to the music and pleading to the vocals, bringing to the forefront a fact that Puff Daddy seemed to miss: It isn't a love song; it's a song from a pathetic stalker. Hatfield's originals are rarely comfortable emotionally, either, but even at her most pathetic, she has enough insight and artistry to make it fun to listen.

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