Sweet and sour. Yin and yang. Mutt and Jeff. Cheese and
onions. All of the world's great pairs evoke a sense of wholeness
in disparity, revel in the synthesis of that which is and that
which isn't, admire the beauty in opposites not only attracted,
Add Ginny and Barbara to that list of great pairs. Why?
Madames Clee and Marsh of the Dear Janes get more mileage out of
unlikely synthesis than any other band plying its wares these
days: Ginny Clee is British, Barbara Marsh American; Ginny is
small, fluffy and roundish, Barbara tall, austere and angular;
Clee sings in a sweet soprano, Marsh in a strong alto; the Dear
Janes' music is brilliantly engaging and uplifting, the Dear
Janes' lyrics are devastatingly down-to-earth and unrelentingly
dark; it shouldn't work, it does spectacularly.
While the Dear Janes are both guitar-toting singers, No
Skin is no trans-Atlantic Indigo Girls record. The album's
arrangements are unexpectedly rich, with sheets of electric and
acoustic guitar rustling over instrumental beds constructed from
such unlikely instruments as bassoon, mandola, accordion and hand
percussion. Of course, all of those elements retreat to their
proper support positions as soon as Madames Marsh and Clee open
their mouths: these singers don't merely soar on their musical
thermals, they break free of gravity's constraints altogether and
transport you to some ethereal high place beyond the point where
oxygen deprivation has choked most mortal voices.
It's that high sense of transcendence that makes No
Skin's textual content digestible: song titles such as "Dead
Women's Jewels", "10mg Girl", "Orphan", "Dangerous Dangerous
Nuts", "Angry" and "Get Off the Cross" make it plain that these
Janes aren't the sunshine and lollipop kinds. But so what. Life
is, after all, a nasty, brutish affair--and embracing, uplifting
and thereby transcending its latent rottenness seems as good a
vehicle as any for dealing with its inevitable shortness.
Copyright 1995-1999: J. Eric Smith.