There comes a time in every person’s life where they face crisis. My crisis was this past December, when I was visiting family in Saint Louis. My whole life, I’d always felt differently than other people. While others were out chasing girls, I was thinking about something different. These feelings began in middle school, which is normally an awkward time for kids. Kids can be very mean and cynical. Being called a faggot was one thing I had to endure. I built a shell and hid in it, putting those feelings away, deep inside of me.
In October of 2000, a great shuffle occurred in the radio market that is Saint Louis. A new station emerged; this one played eighties music.
I fell in love with it almost immediately. All the synthpop and new wave. Tears for Fears and Dead or Alive; these were artists I could relate to. My parents looked down on it, saying that it was all crap. Crap that was crap when it came out.
Then one day I heard it.
“Go on and close your eyes, imagine me there.”
I remember how the signer sounded. She sounded emotional and powerful.
Then I heard the jock say that it was by Melissa Etheridge.
Melissa Etheridge? The same person who sang the powerful I’m the Only One?
Holy crap! I remember when the latter song came out, but not the former. I later found out that the album Melissa Etheridge was released the year I was born, six months earlier to be exact.
This album has all the earmarks of heartland rock. Much like Springsteen and Mellencamp (or Cougar, or whatever his name is…) This album sounds honest.
First, we start off with Similar Features, the song above. This is an excellent opener and is very radio friendly. It has hooks and a killer bass intro. Chrome Plated Heart, the second track sounds as though she has experienced this before. The song held my interest. Next is the amazing Like the Way I Do. This is perhaps the rawest song on the album. Not as radio friendly, but it did get radio airplay. Melissa’s softer side comes out in Precious Pain. Still, my interest was geared towards the album. Now, I’m beginning to realize that I’ve been where she has and that the album is relatable. It was during Precious Pain that the bass in the background is beginning to head out towards the front.
Don’t You Need is yet another good track. She has power in her voice as she sings this. The bass shows up again, although the noodling isn’t as noticeable here. I can almost hear I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen towards the middle. The song builds to an impressive climax, then slowly fades out. By now I’m in love with the album.
The biggest track here, by far, is The Late September Dogs. What power! What emotion! What honesty! By now I can’t turn the album off, I’m hooked. Ms. Etheridge really has cut her songwriting teeth here, and they are a full set, as if they’ve skipped the deciduous stage. For a freshman effort, this sounds like it should be well into her career. The only thing that detracts from Dogs… is the noodling on the bass.
Occasionally is another honest track. I’m reminded of a winters day on Nantucket, when nothing was open and I just walked down Main Street without a care in the world. The drumming on the bongos reminds me of the footsteps I took after getting into a fight with a now ex friend. “I’m only lonely, occasionally…”
Watching You again brings out the softer side of Ms. Etheridge. Again, I’m reminded of another time on Nantucket, this time walking through the State Forest. The slow guitar strumming reminds me of the wind blowing through the pines, whispering their somber song.
The penultimate track on this album is the fiery Bring Me Some Water. A summers day at the beach comes to mind, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This song was also a single. Perhaps this is the ultimate draw to the album, but I don’t think so. I like this song because as I’ve stated above, I’ve been where she is talking about.
Finally, we come to I Want You. This track is a rollicking one. The track is bouncy and has positive energy all over it. I can feel good listening to this one. I’m sad to say the album is now over, and I want more. Ms. Etheridge is the mistress of songwriting and hooks.
This album piqued my interest and held it all the way through, which is hard for someone who has ADHD.
So, the question is, is it shit?
The short answer is no. This album is far from shit, in fact I wouldn’t place shit in the same sentence with this album. This was a very strong debut for Ms. Etheridge. An album like this comes along usually later in the careers of storied musicians. For a strong album like this to be the debut really says something. I’ve heard many a debut album, but nothing quite like this before. The lyrics are honest and the instrumentation is good. Everything is produced nicely, however the production can be a little thin, but this is because it was 1988, and we didn’t have the technology we do today. So, what to give this album? Five Stars are rare to be given out, and they are not handed down like party favors. I do not care what your sexual preference is, you must, must check out this album. This debut is worth seeking out.