Michelle Shocked Threesome

Michelle Shocked Threesome

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Only one of the three separate albums that comprise Michelle Shocked’s triumvirate limited edition release Threesome deals explicitly with her recent divorce. But the implicit message behind her coup d’largesse is “Hey, bub, look what I can do without your sorry ass around. I was sitting on six albums’ worth of material that your presence was gumming up.” (These three albums are reportedly going to be matched by another three later this year.) At the same time, the subject matter of the second and third albums collected here (which are also available separately, but there’s enough dialogue between the triplets to consider them side by side by side) betray Shocked’s confident swagger.

The lynchpin Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a rational, country-blues post-mortem on her failed marriage, with witheringly direct dismissals like “Hardly Gonna Miss Him” (all the more devastating for its MOR singsonginess) matched with “Don’t Ask,” a free-associating, parable-spinning Laurie Anderson-esque story song that begins “Did I ever tell you about the time I was change into a rabbit?” The album begins with “Early Morning Saturday” and plays out like the slow-burning realization that Saturday afternoon alone isn’t exactly as glamorous and relaxing a prospect for a new divorcee as it’s cracked up to be. Ultimately, for all the moments of self-empowerment, the end of the album finds fugelhorn player Rich Armstrong playing “Taps” ruefully, followed by the after hours unlisted bonus track “Hi Skool,” a full-blown jaunt into a pop-punk time capsule (a la The B-52s) that segues into the backward-glances of both Mexican Standoff, which sees Shocked considering her own heritage on the ethnic line between Tex and Mex, and Got No Strings, an album of Disney covers that, if it weren’t perhaps the most musically playful, could easily be mistaken for full-blown ice cream, teddy bear, and chick flick territory.

Both Mexican Standoff and Got No Strings radiate nostalgia, but their strategies are at 180º. On the former, for instance, is “La Cantina el Gato Negro,” a Mariachi-burlesque torch song that, like any number of cabaret ditties, undercuts its own melodramatic profligacy with an overbaked delivery. Shocked’s spacious vibrato and tendency to begin singing each refrain with at least a beat or two of revving up complete the intoxicating atmosphere of seediness sanitized via the filter of human memory. The flip disc could almost be subtitled Woody’s Roundup for all the Riders in the Sky arrangements in the first half. But eventually it settles down into Shocked’s extraordinarily measured, stripped-down vocal interpretations of “Wish Upon A Star” and “Baby Mine,” arguably the two best songs Walt Disney ever commissioned. Taken separately, Michelle Shocked’s glut of material sounds a tad sketchy and disparate, but as a collection, they reveal a woman spending her free time singing to pretend that she doesn’t see who just walked out her door.

Release Date
June 14, 2005
Label
Mighty Sound
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