If you’ve followed Carla Bozulich’s post-Geraldine Fibbers career, the first thing you’ll notice with her latest solo effort is how quickly her voice appears. Quite literally one second after the first elastic bass notes start on the opening track “Ain’t No Grave,” she is there, with a creeping bit of blues bravado: “There ain’t no grave that can hold me down.” It’s not an unusual device for an album, but it sets a very firm tone from the get-go: you’re in her world now, so look alive. Bozulich returns to that conceit through the course of Boy to ensure that she has your full attention.
Reasons for not making art are all around us. It serves its own purpose. But it seems we’re stuck with this absurd drive. One could call this clinging a plea for levity at best, but the most lasting art always moves past distraction. The stressors that we face in trying to be good or content or ….
Carla Bozulich states in the liner notes that Boy is her "pop" album. She knows the term is subjective. In her definition, the word reflects the multiple locations she wrote and recorded in, the numerous people encountered in her nomadic state of travel, and the various musical genres that can be -- and often are -- used to create pop. Bozulich doesn't "deconstruct" here.
Boy is yet another reminder that Carla Bozulich is a treasure, an unbelievably gifted poet with a commanding voice and a vivid vision of life. "Tickle your bones with my last lonely finger" she coos dastardly on "Don't Follow Me," a spooky threat on a record full of evocative lyrics and imagery bathed in light but only in the second after a shroud of darkness has been lifted from them. In her liner notes, Bozulich speaks grimly of loss, critical illness and death before joking "So, yeah, this is my pop album.
As with such well-traveled peers as Thalia Zedek or Michael Gira, Carla Bozulich has spent decades navigating the art-rock underground through sheer tenacity and a fierce commitment to her own distinctive musical vision. Throughout her career as a solo artist, with her various groups (Ethyl Meatplow, Geraldine Fibbers, Evangelista), and with a motley assortment of collaborations and guest appearances, she has charted a course that appears almost specifically designed to win a fervent cult following while keeping most others at arm’s length. Her recent albums with Evangelista have been delivered with such abrasive, primal force and emotive intensity as to be genuinely intimidating for the unsuspecting listener.
With Boy, Carla Bozulich has created a percussive bit of weirdo-rock, chopped and screwed by the former Geraldine Fibber as she traveled around the globe and with help from a cast of collaborators. It has the herky-jerky rhythms of a life in punctuated movement, stop-start patterns driven by exploded drums and Bozulich’s wisps and snarls. Most importantly it sounds like nothing other than Bozulich’s own twisty back catalog, her career spent distorting punk rock and country and the blues into exciting new shapes.
It’s highly recommended that you read the lyric sheet while listening to Boy, a solo album from Carla Bozulich, who has been releasing records under various names and with various bands and collaborators – Geraldine Fibbers is probably her best-known one – since the early 1980s. As a songwriter, Bozulich has absorbed the influences of Symbolist poets, blues prophets, Beats and their avant-garde-minded contemporaries as well as Patti Smith, Nick Cave and Tom Waits. Her lyrics crackle with the eerie allure of a distant Mississippi Delta radio broadcast on a lonely night, but are sophisticated enough to be on the wall in the Museum of Modern Art.
Carla Bozulich — Boy (Constellation)In a recent issue of The Wire, Carla Bozulich wrote a bleak little piece about the moment when she sold her mom’s Billie Holiday LP, which had been in her life since before her birth, for drug money. It’s raw remembrance of pain and foolishness, and it ends with the epiphany that she would never recover the sense of everything being all right that she associated with that record. The bands she played in over the twenty-odd years that followed rueful realization (Ethyl Meatplow, Geraldine Fibbers, Scarnella) didn’t sound much like each other, but they were united in one thing; whatever their merits, their music was never as tough and traumatizing as the personal experiences and preoccupations that Bozulich was trying to channel.
The trajectory of Carla Bozulich’s career has always been intriguing, from the incendiary rock of The Geraldine Fibbers to more esoteric records under the Evangelista alias. So her reference to Boy as a “pop album” in the text accompanying the release is unexpected. In reality, a few hooks do not a pop album make; they do, however, give a more accessible structure to Bozulich’s songs.
Carla Bozulich reckons that Boy is her "pop album". On first listen, this claim seems faintly ridiculous. The first track, for instance, kinda resembles Big Sexy Noise, a group who are not known for filling the O2 Arena or collaborating with will.i.am. 'Ain't No Grave' might be less chunkily distorted than Lydia Lunch's Gallon Drunk-assisted rock brigade, but it also has mad drums that crash, flap and flail all over the place as if Bozulich has placed the Lernaean Hydra behind the kit and instructed it to bash away at those skins with every available head, limb, tail and wing.
Carla Bozulich, and her moniker Evangelista, has produced some fantastic art-punk noise compositions over the years. Often dark, intense and eerily intimate, Bozulich has way of wrapping a dark cloud of poetry around beautifully haunting arrangements which may or may not subscribe to any standardized rules of music and often feature a minimal amount of instruments played in the most penetrating fashion. This is typical of Bozulich’s offerings.