Album Review: The Excitement of Maybe by Exene Cervenka
Fairly Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
For many years, Exene Cervenka has been torn between her first love, loud and aggressive rock & roll (as she's embraced it with X, Auntie Christ and The Original Sinners) and her ongoing flirtation with acoustic music rooted in folk, country and blues (see her work with The Knitters and her first two solo albums, Old Wives' Tales and Running Sacred). Cervenka's 2009 album Somewhere Gone was firmly rooted in acoustic territory, but its follow-up, 2011's The Excitement of Maybe, finds her trying to bring to the two sides together for a change. This album's volume is quite low by the standards of Wild Gift or Under The Big Black Sun, but with Brady Blade on drums on drums and Christian McBride on bass, Cervenka has an acoustic rhythm section that can lock into a groove and set a mood like nobody's business, and Dave Alvin adds subtle but scrappy electric guitar on most of these twelve tracks, giving this music a rough, soulful undertow.
...but confound it all, it has to be mentioned! Of course, Exene Cervenka was a member of legendary punk band X, quite possibly the best punk band to ever come out of Los Angeles. Still touring, they called recording quits in the early ‘90s after transforming themselves into a rock band (Ain’t Love Grand) then an Americana band (See How We Are) and finally some sort of strange alternative rock concoction (Hey Zeus!). Exene released some solo albums, folky affairs, and then founded, in recent years, punk throwbacks Auntie Christ and the Original Sinners.
Though she had dabbled in acoustic music for years, 2009’s Somewhere Gone marked a significant shift in direction for former X singer Exene Cervenka. Her latest, The Excitement of Maybe, rocks at least a little bit harder than its predecessor, but it continues to find Cervenka exploring folk, blues, and country influences. Based on the quality of both records and the ways in which The Excitement of Maybe improves on the uneven Somewhere Gone, it wouldn’t be premature to claim that Cervenka, a true legend of punk, has begun a full-fledged career renaissance as an Americana artist.
Like any enduring goddess, Exene Cervenka has been many things to many people, from punk rocker to performance poet, to, on the present recording, country songstress. Considered as an autochthonous deity, Cervenka is both firmly attached to specific locations (here, a lyrical Lar of US states from Arizona to Oklahoma) and displays a more universal, affective spirit. Unfortunately, as with so many other deities in the contemporary era, Cervenka’s gift to her adherents rests on past eminence rather than present greatness.