Rachel Taylor Brown | Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and Other Saints and Superheroes (Cutthroat Pop)

cd_rachel-taylor-brown.jpgRachel Taylor Brown delivers ironic little songs with a spare sound that belies their complex makeup.







This review should have been written by Eddie Argos or Jason Green, our comics czars here at PLAYBACK:stl; however, I was the lucky one to pick it up because…well, I liked the art on the front cover, its inspiration and perhaps source being the art of Chester Gould who drew Dick Tracy during The Depression and into the ’70s.

Rachel Taylor Brown delivers ironic little songs with a spare sound that belies their complex makeup. On her new album Susan Storm’s Ugly Sister and other Saints and Superheroes, Brown flexes her songwriting muscles and allows us into a vivid, if warped imagination. As the title implies, various saints and superheroes get a sophisticated makeover (not that saints or superheroes lack sophistication). On several songs this works, but there is too little to grasp upon on this brief disc. Each story is presented with very spare backing and percussion that is also spare when selected — tap dancing on "Zoe of Rome," for instance. While I am a big fan of subtlety, I guess I was ready for fireworks to go with my superheroes and saints. Brown seems to tamp them down, which in some cases is the point, but makes for a thin offering on a subject that is endlessly interesting.

That said, I am enthralled with Brown’s sense of strange (this is a woman who would be fun to swap tales of the really gruesome lives of the saints). Her treatment of Bruce Wayne on the song "Bruce Wayne’s Bastard Son" is hilarious, as she sings, "Daddy doesn’t know me but I’d make a better friend (fuck you, Robin)." On "St. Fina," she offers, "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!/ Oh Fina, on your wooden board, St. Fina loves to serve the Lord. The rats that come to cover you, St. Fina, make you resolute." Really, when I was back in Catholic grade school, Sister Stella never delivered the story of St. Fina with such aplomb.

Rachel Taylor Brown is certainly a great writer with an imagination that matches both her subjects and many of her heroes listed on her MySpace [http://www.myspace.com/racheltaylorbrown] page. Her history, according to the brief bio provided, describes her in Emily Dickinson terms as having spent eight years hidden away, hermit fashion, just writing. Now that Ms. Taylor is out of her dark room and sharing, I, for one, am looking forward to some tales of "wild nights." B+ | Jim Dunn

RIYL: Early Randy Newman, early Tori Amos, Eleni Mandell

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