Tiffany Anders has a pedigree that most indie hopefuls would happily die for. Imagine growing up in the Hipsterville Hills of Los Angeles with respected film director Allison Anders (Gas, Food, Lodging) for a mom. A mom who'd drag you along to see bands like Redd Kross or X when you were in grade school, and introduce you to rock 'n' roll properly, on a first-name basis. "J Mascis, this is my daughter, Tiffany. Tiffany, this is J. He is in a band called Dinosaur Jr." (To be fair, the press sheet says that Mascis answered a fan letter and they developed a correspondence. When she was only 14. And her mother only got him in to score Gas, Food, Lodging a few years later. If you say so. . . .)
The Polly Jean Harvey connection is also up for speculation. I guess it all depends on which interview you read. PJ Harvey not only produced and mixed Funny Cry Happy Gift, she sings, plays guitar, bass and organ on it. Mascis mans the drum kit on all the songs except for "Here I Found," where Peej takes over those duties as well. So the big question has to be whether Anders has the gifts to justify this all-star cast, or is she just cashing in some of her Showbiz Kid chips a little prematurely.
Funny Cry Happy Gift has the intimacy of a cheap "buddy" record. What it lacks in bravery or invention, it makes up in a casual and very relaxed feeling. A "living room" record, without having to fall over the furniture. Unfortunately, Anders' voice is going to irritate more people than it charms. She has a tendency to sing at the high, girlish end of her range, and it just doesn't sound comfortable, nor does it sound committed or intelligent enough to forgive the cracks. When PJ's backing vocals come in, they automatically command the authority that Anders can't quite muster.
What you can't polish, you can always break down to primer: One can almost imagine PJ using the sparse production approach that has always worked so well for her, only to be surprised at the rather weedy results, and then being forced to double-track the vocals as a desperate last-minute attempt at making something sound like . . . something. Harvey's other musical contributions are solid, particularly the scary, atonal e-bow drone on "Disappear So Fast," but ultimately these little pieces of inventive musicianship just sink in the quicksand of Anders' lazy songwriting and urban hipster self-absorption. Our brows furrow while we wonder why such talented people poured 13 precious days of their lives into this musical sinkhole; our collective hearts pump dishwater at Tiffany's tales of a young woman's hardships.
Showbiz Kids, all trauma, no empathy. Some people should go back to baby-sitting movie stars' brats and work on their bad habits and leave music to people who care enough to do it right.
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