The first thing you notice about this EP is the title, "Six Songs," which seems at first prosaic but actually contains a subtle word play on "sick" songs" and, if you have some French tongue, "sea songs." Indeed, this EP contains songs to make you feel all right, from a crack alternative band with the seething power of the North Atlantic waves crashing into lofty cliffs, with the night priestess voice of Liz Pickard soaring through, like the salty clifftop geyser of Arianrhod's vent in Welsh mythology.
The second thing that strikes you is the phenomenal artwork. The front of the CD case has a rectangular grid pattern of nested silver fish on a black background, which looks like dark waves, and each fish has a dark triangle for an eye. The CD itself has a similar pattern except that the CD is divided into two nested shell/crescent moon cradling the sun/foetal shaped areas, one with silver fish on black background and one with black on silver. This is like a yinyang (T'ai-chi T'u) symbol except that the fish are there instead of the inner dot, and the central hole of the CD symbolizes birth/creativity/balance. Also the fish are in a curved (concentric) pattern, and the background looks like web-linked candlesticks. I'm not sure if this artwork was influenced by the movie Go Fish and the eastern game of Go.
The liner notes have a track listing facing the CD, in a concentric fashion, one ring for each song, orbiting a central puckered hole that lines up with the CD hole. The border of the page looks either burned or blood or fur covered, with the track listing emerging from the brightness within. The first unfolding reveals, along with band info, four powerful sun images, each with a central bright oval, then a thick dark ring, then small bright flames superimposed on dark flames. This again shows the interplay between dark and light, and is also evocative of how everything goes dark (you black out) if you stare at the sun too long during a sundance. (My last name is not Cassidy, though.) The second unfolding reveals a 4x central image suitable for framing, with both erotic and mystical significance. It is a circular image with eighteen crescent moons arranged convex side inwards around the circle, and attached to diamond/kite images, with curly S/hair symbols halfway between them. Then the central image is a fiery/growing/living kelp-sun image with what looks like a melon seed interior, and an inner eye shape or boat shape with a dark kundalini serpent within. This is similar to some of the triangular chakra symbols used in kundalini yoga but is much less contained. Alternatively it could be viewed as a universal mother vaginal/creativity symbol. Or this image could somehow represent Liz Pickard, and the four smaller sun images the four other band members.
Then finally the back cover of the CD has a photo that looks like an ink drawing, of Liz, right index finger extended out of the page in a 'we want/got you' or 'go ahead, make my night' pose, and far more hair than I have ever seen on her head. She is framed in a diamond shape (through a scaffold?) on a downtown St. John's, Newfoundland street.
This album layout and design is attributed to Alice Nossereau, and all of the artwork is by her, except the photo of Liz by Justin hall.
The music is a hard-hitting alternative head-banging soundscape that keeps the body dancing while the passionate no-nonsense voice of Liz Pickard soars through and over the music and keeps the mind dancing. She has a unique rebel voice, like a 1920's gangster dame with an accent that is pure Newfoundland (of "hard rock and water," to quote Ron Hynes), with elements from Ireland, the UK, continental Europe and a hint of LA & NY, and should appeal to all these and more. She is capable of singing soft, honeypot-dripping sensually but still strongly, or in a protective rage voice of change, a staccato hailstorm punctuated with the occasional howl or growl.
She has a nightbird voice, of seaside wind and mountain spray, with a hint of feral feline. I don't like to make comparisons, and her voice is unique, but you could imagine a Ani diFranco type voice but with a bit of a strong torch jazz singer, rocked up much more, with a bit of a lusty celtic lilt, and with the vocal nuances of a trained actor, capable of rousing the deadest crowd to musical bliss like a consumnate prayer tent operator. Her stage presence is second to none, in your face, and backed by a sharp band. The EP was recorded at least partly live off the floor and retains some of the live energy of Lizband and is best listened to turned up loud. Their live show is even better, and improving all the time, so catch them if you can.
This has simple but infectious head-banging instruments with dirty guitars and Liz singing slightly spacily (in veteran cosmic rocker mode) in the chorus,
"you're a being and you're living on a planet in a tiny cluster of stars/it's a part of a pattern that goes on forever in a universe reaching out farther/ all one song all one song universe one song"
and more street-wise supportively on the verses
"here's a song/to make it all right/and to help you get/through another night/here's a song/to help you survive/and to make you forget all those tears you're crying/"
"here is a song/to keep you alive/and to make you forget/ when you feel like dying."
This is fast country-tinged alternative rock, underlain by dancing duelling dirty guitars, and would be a good driving song. It is a powerful social commentary against deadbeat dads and the stigma associated with teen pregnancy.
"Mary got a baby and she's only 15/and you can't see Buddy for dust/ Strangled in a small town/stuck out like a sore thumb/No where to run, no where to run/shame for the family/Mary got a secret and the whole dirty little town knows/Mary thought it was love, Buddy thought it was lust/ And it was Mary's balloon that got busted..."
This is a social commentary on the type of man who buys sex. It starts off slow, a swivel slow dance of dirty guitars with a hint of surf sounds or Rawhide, then speeds up a bit as in a fast horse ride, and when the audience is well primed, Liz and the guitars let go with some alternating howls. Oh, I guess it has many faceted meanings, including those who target incompatibles and have "that faraway look in their eye" and those who marry someone not for love but for the "money, he got money, and a nice big car".
"Johnny is a family man/Johnny has made it so far/Johnny got money he got money/and he got a nice big car/and I seen him drive downtown/and oh he's got that look in his eye/he's casing every woman around/for something that money don't buy/and she's standing in the corner/she's waiting for him/ hey John come on/I gotta get on get on ... he's lost somewhere between the night and the light..."
This is a powerful anthem against the patriarchial distortions of religion and war and more. It has wailing guitars, great drum work, and a rousing voice of change. The word "motherfucker" is used in both it's negative sense and in a long invocation of powerful maternal line/goddess spirits.
"In the name of the father/in the name of God almighty/you hang on your bloody cross/and lay them out before you/so your hardened eyes resign/table ladened blood and wine/flows from the veins of humankind/as you gorge on war war war/... mothers hide your children well/save them up inside a shell/ throw their stunted bodies through the gaping hole of hell/by all the powers that bee/don't let that motherfucker come down on me/protect my children from the chains that bound me/... motherfucker of the mother of the motherfucker of a motherfucker of a motherfucker..."
The last, iterated "motherfucker" reminds me of Monty Python's "ni ni ni ni" skit ("Ni" is now Irish for daughter of father, it used to mean daughter of daughter back when names were traced by maternal line).
[It could also, for a family audience, be sung "for cure of the Mother, for cure of the mother, for cure of the mmOther..."]
This is even faster, with grungy guitars and crisp drums, and decries apathy in many to problems elsewhere, for example war in another part of the world. There is some very good guitar work, backing dirty guitars, punctuated occasionally by clean but turbulent high solos.
"she had a diamond as big as your eye/she wore it on her middle finger/ talk of war around the world could almost make her cry.../ well baby baby you make me crazy trying to forget you're middle class/ there ain't a mark on your record baby, not a stain on your soul/ there ain't a / on your lily white lily white lily lily white hand."
This starts out slow, with a processional undercurrent of guitars, then the rhythm section kicks in a bit louder, then Hendrixian guitars buzz louder, like the queen bee. And all the while Liz is reciting/singing goddess-inspired poetry evoking the spirit of women from all the ages. On the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy mailing list (for Sarah McLachlan) I suggested that this would be a good song (and band) for Lilith Fair someday.
"oh she reigns tonight in silence/keeping her secrets/falling to pieces/ oh it rains upon the lake of aching/water breaking/filling a purple hole/... inside me there's a desert/my heart's become a stone/how hard I cling to this earth/oh my garden's overgrown/... my hand is raised and ready/to pierce your human heart/... these eyes have cried a thousand bitter tears/... i looked into your bloodless eyes, and I named you, I named you lyre/... i gave birth to the entire human race/... i give to you, i give to you, the bitch goddess of truth"
The CD should be available by phone order from Fred's Records at 709-753-9191, where it is filed in the Alternative section (but not in the Newfoundland artists section). If readers of this know of other, local to you, sources feel free to follow up to this post.
Another full length CD will be out on Dec. 13, 1997, and they may be still shopping for label and/or distribution deals in some parts of the world for that new recording.
They have no web page yet but probably will before release date. But they do have a band e-mail contact at firstname.lastname@example.org and they would have more up-to-date info than I would. Mention that you heard about them in this review if that is the case.
Release party is Dec. 13,1997 at The Edge in St. John's, Newfoundland and they are also playing there Nov. 29,1997.
The new CD will include songs such as Parallel Universe, Amazing, Emily, and loads more.
Liz is also an actor --- she, Jody Richardson (the Red Albino of The Thomas Trio & the Red Albino, now in a new band called Fur-Packed Action), Natalie Noseworthy (formerly of the band Potmaster, now pursuing a solo career) and others recently put on a one act musical play called "The Comedy is Killing Me" plus she and Jody put on two short plays entitled "My Religion (a study of)" and "Domestic Bliss". She is also known for her one-woman play "The alienation of Lizzy Dyke" and did a one-human exerpt from her multimedia show planned for next year (Sept98), entitled "Human...@nature," at the 1997 Halifax theatre festival. Liz also plays Dolly on the CBC series Gullages. Jody is also in Gullages. Gullages is a quirky fusion of family/hockey team/cab company/local character/humour rooted on the Avalon, occasionally lost in the mists, somewhere between the mainland of North America and Europe.
Also, I read a while ago that Lizband was featured in the film "Anchor Zone". Liz also seems to be a capable writer, judging from a piece entitled "Zen Motherhood in Eight Easy Lessons" that I read in the Fall 1991 Waterlily magazine, and capable artist if any of the album art is hers.
Fans of the hour long CBC series Black Harbour should note that at least in the first three episodes, songs from the EP were used as background, in scenes involving Tasha, a rebellious teen, who must be a Lizband fan (on the show at least). In one episode the song Mary Got a Baby played through a vehicle radio, in another (the window-breaking episode) Complacency played in Tasha's room, in a third One Song was ordered turned down.
Lizband were at least nominated for a 1995 East Coast Music Award in the Alternative category.
One other track entitled "Powerful" is on a local alternative compilation CD called "Falling Rock." Some details on this compilation are listed at http://web.cs.mun.ca/~philipv/ched/danger.html . It does feature several other very good alternative bands, some of whom I heard at the Peace-A-Chord this past summer.
Another recent release entitled "11:11" features 11 Newfoundland & Labrador women singers performing 11 songs by Connie & Ron Hynes. Liz Pickard sings one, as do Pamela Morgan, Kathy Phippard, Damnhait Doyle, Kim Stockwood, Anita Best, Colleen Power, Vicky Hynes, Mary Barry, Shirley Montague and Shirley Dalton (no close relation to me). Liz does a wonderful version of "Picture to Hollywood." This is more an "unplugged" CD though than alternative rock.
So anyway, from recent live sets I believe the upcoming full length CD will contain all or almost all new songs and hence I would recommend a purchase of this EP even if you are also planning to buy the new release when it comes out on Dec. 13/97.
And to conclude, the franglish geographic pun
"Liz bonne pour tu, gal."