Juliana Hatfield didn't name her new band Some Girls as an homage to the Stones. Don't bother asking Hatfield, her Blake Babies drummer Freda Love, or bassist Heidi Gluck (The Pieces) if they are American girls who want everything in the world you can possibly imagine. They would probably just sneer at you. They do a lot of that. They do it well. In fact, Feel It
's strength comes from pitting the sneer and strut of a really great three-piece against the cotton-candy softness of Hatfield's voice. She is not quite the lost little girl of the Shame About Ray
backing vocals, but there is still a cloud of sweetness over her voice, which she takes great satisfaction (again, not in a Stones kind of way) in lacing with poisonous cynicism. Isn't it cyanide that smells like sweet almonds just before you pass out?
Consider "The Prettiest Girl", built on a raunchy, garagey guitar riff straight out of the Nuggets series. That dirty vibe is undercut by glorious, girl on girl harmonies, jubilant "Hey, heys" and the melting warm flow of Hatfield's voice. Or is it? The lyrics, so demurely delivered, gradually shade darker; here is the girl washing down donuts with beer, there she is avoiding dirty old men, and finally, as the guitar crunches onward, we are left to wonder if something really bad happened to her.
"Necessito" follows on a robotic beat of bass and electric keys. It's the single, the cut most obviously tooled and retooled for the teenagers, and while it stands out on first listen, it quickly fades on repeat ones. Much better is the slinky croon of "Almost True", Hatfield's pure, unfettered voice taking on a country-ish twang in a tale of settling for a guy whose heart is elsewhere. There's even a harmonica, courtesy of Heidi Gluck, to take us out of indie suburbia and into the heartland. Then it's back into jaded strip-mall America for "Robot City", one of the album's highlights, with its wry observations on empty consumer culture. It's supported by a great bubbling keyboard and the laid-back slash of Hatfield's guitars. The music, like the words, is detached and cool.
At their best, Some Girls can sound like the Stones fronted by Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies -- a contradictory mix of rough, passionate instrumentals and airy, unconcerned vocals. It's an unusual combination, but it works surprisingly well, especially on the disc's final track, a cover of Robert Johnson's "Malted Milk". Hatfield's voice slides like ice water down the notes, twining through the blues chords like an angel of mercy, piano tinkling way up high like it comes from the world's smallest roadhouse. It's slow and sweet and gorgeous and nothing at all like the original -- but that is, just this once, so much more than okay.