Marla Mase - Speak [deluxe]
Marla Mase is a complicated artist; one with the ability to go from the war cry-like call for peace of "Piece of Peace," to something much more seemingly mundane, such as the common act of purchasing a new phone on "New Cell Phone." Her sound can be rock & roll one moment, and spoken word put to music the next. Whatever guise Mase's art takes, though, it's never less than compelling.
One of Mase's most effective examples of musical-poetry is "Open up My Heart," which speaks openly and honestly about a pitiful girl suffering from a life of over protection. "It wasn't that she wasn't loved/In fact/She was loved too much," Mase states at one point, in the song's most jaw-dropping moment. Interestingly, Mase sounds a lot like early Laurie Anderson recordings on this track. There is a bit a bite in her vocal tone, as though she knows a whole lot more than she's actually telling us.
Not everything on this album is entirely effective, however. For instance, the song "Lioness" features Mase speaking/singing/shouting the word 'roar' over and over. Although, yes, this expresses what a lion does, it just sounds rather awkward as a song lyric. Even so, this song has a killer good groove, reminiscent of Talking Heads recordings from the 80s.
Far better, however, is the reggae of "AnnaRexia," a gripping song lyric about the deadly female obsession with staying – or getting – thin. Sung over a fantastic reggae beat, this song is included both as a basic song form, and once again as "AnnaRexia-Bill Laswell Dubmix," and extended. It is a fairly lighthearted musical bed, which deceptively couches a very serious lyric.
A track titled "Dance the Tango" is one of the happiest songs about suicide, ever. It's sung over a snappy, swinging beat. It tells the story about reading somebody's obituary. That's followed by a complaint that this written piece failed to mention the suicide victim's enjoyment from dancing the tango. It also "forgot to mention" how this person liked to laugh. Granted, obituary columns cannot include everything. However, sometimes these articles can have a boatload of information, yet still completely miss the essence of that individual. The track ends with a respectful string outro.
Mase is at her most passionate during the rocker "Piece of Peace, when she screams hoarsely, "They say we all need the same things/So what's stopping us?" This is a question we all must have asked ourselves at one time or another. While humans have the same basic wishes for the world, we too often let politics, religion and any number of other factors get in the way of making these wishes come true.
Even something as seemingly mundane as "New Cell Phone," however, includes the line, "The bills keep coming," which makes a philosophical statement about the manner in which life continues to roll on. It's also a reaction against being pelted by circumstances. Yes, Mase deceptively deep, even when seemingly lighthearted.
Sure, Marla Mase is a complicated woman. Yet even within all this complication is a relatively straightforward soul, with easy to comprehend ideals. So even though you may not peel away all the layers to the onion with this one album, you will still get a filling meal out of it.
Marla Mase - Speak [deluxe]
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