Michelle Shocked Explores Love and Anger on Forthcoming CD
"I think the meditation these past several years, ever since I stopped drinking, really, has been to jettison rage," says Shocked, "without losing the ability to feel strong feelings." Two powerful currents in her present life conspired to teach her that lesson. Artist David Willardson, "the Official Love of My Life," she adds, is one tide. The other is her "nemesis," the former Bush Administration "and their alleged 'enlightened self-interest.' Between the two, my emotions have run quite high in recent years."
The sentiments on Soul of My Soul, performed by Shocked and producer/multi-instrumentalist Devin Powers, are couched mainly in straight-four, no frills, rock 'n' roll — just the context for Shocked's two-toned passion play. Among the songs about her new love is the acoustic ballad "True Story," in which she sings directly to Willardson. Her "sweetheart" also is the subject of "Love's Song," an ebullient, Stones-y anthem; "Heart to Heart," a spacey Kate Bush-meets-U2 meditation on the couple's future; and the lusty "Paperboy," about Willardson's carnal near-miss at age 12.
Clearly there are no love songs to the Bush Administration, at least in the traditional sense. Shocked does proffer "Other People" which, at first blush, sounds like a kiss-off to an untrue lover. Well, it is. Except for one thing: Shocked is singing to Bush's America, the ugly, war-mongering face of the country she loves. "I used to rant, 'Bush, pull out like your father should have.' Now I say, 'I love you America, but I think we should see other people.'"
She gets feistier on "The Ballad of the Battle of the Ballot and the Bullet," a Steve Earle-ish folk rock song that she sings "because I can." On "Liquid Prayer" — Soul's lone soul tune — Shocked meditates on the types of tears issued to a God she counts on to provide the tissue. In the ironically tropical tune "Pompeii," she worries about the fate of a "broken democratic state" beholden to corporate compromise and "entwined in orgiastic lies, with the top about to blow." It's "vexation," according to the singer, that fuels these songs: Shocked is righteously, morally, and intellectually pissed off — but even on the angriest song on Soul of My Soul, the snarling punk rock anthem "Giantkiller," Shocked vents her vexation artfully and poetically, giving her message added philosophical oomph.
These Soul songs show that, though the fightin' side of her remains, Michelle Shocked's rage is adrift behind her. She feels renewed and refreshed, free to bask in love and the eclipse of George Bush's bad moon by Barack Obama's promise of hope and change. "It was Zen and the Art of Archery," she says. "I had a target, I took aim and I hit, I believe, a bull's-eye. I'd love some more feedback on that estimation, but early indications from live performances are 'Amen, Sister Shocked.'"
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