Monday, May 27, 2013

East Is East - Pepi Ginsberg

East Is East
Pepi Ginsberg
Park The Van  PTV 47

The first (and only time) that I heard a Pepi Ginsberg song on the radio I wondered if it was Lene Lovich making a comeback.  She has a rather unconventional singing style that caught my attention right away.  She swoops and soars around the music, gushing and slurring the words with her passionate and ebullient voice.  Back in the 1980s quirky New Wave female singers were as common as synthesizers but the kids nowadays seem to prefer conventional singers like Lana Del Rey which is probably why I never hear Ginsberg on the radio.  I liked her so much that I sought out her record and I'm glad I did.  This is her second full length album on Park the Van ( I don't believe that the first one was released on vinyl.)  The album opens with the aptly named "Shake This" which delivers a staccato guitar rift over a bouncy rhythm track punctuated by martial drum beats.  It is about making a change in a relationship.  "Lost River" is another propulsive tune with an exuberant vocal from Ginsberg.  It is a Dylanesque and poetic description of a journey.  Her language is very evocative, you can tell she has a literary background.  She slows things down a bit for "East is East" aside from the frenetic chorus.  The song is about finding direction both literally and metaphorically.  She delivers "Mercury Tide" over a simple pulsing tune that gradually builds in strength as she sings about surrendering to a love relationship.  Ginsberg abandons the funkiness that pervades side one for the more conventional sounding ballad "Coca Cola."  The lyrics are anything but conventional though, they are highly poetic and abstract.  I wish she provided a lyric sheet.  I believe this is another relationship song but it covers a lot more ground than that.  It is a very impressive song that reminds me a bit of Patti Smith.  Side two opens with "Gravity in 20/20" which is a choppy, pounding tune that looks back on a relationship.  "Navy and Sand" is one of my favorite cuts on the album.  It is a jumpy, funky song with abrupt shifts in tempo that reminds me of the early Talking Heads or Pylon.  It provides a framework for one of Ginsberg's most energetic vocals.  I think it is about love, although it is probably about more than that.  "Kid" is another bouncy, catchy song that manages to be very descriptive while remaining enigmatic.  I think it is about escape but maybe it is just about casual sex.  The spare arrangement of the folky "Coal To Diamonds" puts all the focus on Ginsberg's pretty vocal as she reminisces about a past relationship.  The album ends with the punchy "Summer Sick as Love" which evokes the sensations of summer while describing yet another past love.  As much as I like Ginsberg's literary style of lyric writing, I'd be happier if I knew what she was singing about more often.  I find myself getting lost in her lengthy descriptive passages which are colorful but ultimately obscure.  I would welcome a more direct approach at least some of the time.  The album carries me mostly because of the vocals.  The music is pleasant and engaging but not all that memorable, it is Ginsberg's voice that holds my attention and keeps me coming back to this record.  Hooray for quirkiness!  Recommended to people who wonder what it might sound like if Kate Bush imitated mid-1960s Bob Dylan.

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