Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: American Laundromat Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
The Juliana Hatfield Three released only one album, so it's hard to say that the trio built a long legacy that warrants a comeback 22 years later. Nevertheless, the JHT's 1993 album Become What You Are did mark a high point of sorts for Hatfield, becoming her first album to chart in the Billboard 200, so it's a touchstone for a significant chunk of her audience and, as it turns out, there is indeed a difference between a Juliana Hatfield album and a Juliana Hatfield Three album. Whatever, My Love -- the two-decade-delayed second album by the JHT -- is her first to trade so heavily in stripped-down, hooky guitar jangle since Become What You Are, so the album immediately demonstrates that bassist Dean Fisher and drummer Todd Philips form a genuine band with Juliana and don't merely function as her supporting cast.
Blake Babies, the Boston trio of vocalist/bassist Juliana Hatfield, guitarist/vocalist John Strohm, and drummer Freda Love, were one of those late '80s/early '90s bands who felt huge to what turned out be basically just a few people. But their first three albums, especially 1989's Earwig and 1990's Sunburn (and 1991's Rosy Jack World EP), were on constant rotation for a certain frustrated New Jersey teen: Hatfield's angsty lyrics and crystalline voice, the ramshackle instrumentation and perfect hooks; the reference to William Blake (via Allen Ginsberg, no less); the Dinosaur Jr. and Stooges covers, that they shaved their hair and cut their fingers in their videos and wrote a song about the life-saving effect of early Nirvana.
It’s been over 21 years since the last album from the Juliana Hatfield Three. 1993’s Become What You Are was released on Atlantic, bolstered by radio hits “My Sister” and “Spin the Bottle”. The success of those songs, and of the release of that album on a major label, reflect the relationship alternative rock had with the industry and the radio at the time.
Two decades is a long time for a band by any metric. Styles come and go, pop evolves, and the fans who were once 10-year-olds clamoring for their parents to buy the latest CD become 30-year-olds wondering if the new fits in with the old. The first Juliana Hatfield Three record in 20 years, Whatever, My Love doesn’t sound like a band that took two decades off (perhaps because Juliana Hatfield released 10 solo albums in that time span), but instead like one that never split.
Juliana Hatfield Three Whatever, My Love (American Laundromat) Juliana Hatfield once tried smoking cigarettes to toughen her voice. Twenty-two years on, the former Blake Babies leader stays true to form. February's Whatever, My Love thus continues where the reunited trio halted, after its sole output, 1993's Become What You Are. Still, the bassist, a dozen solo albums later, sings of dysfunctional partnership commonplace at 25 – only Hatfield, now 47, realizes that folly's staleness.
When last we heard from Juliana Hatfield, she and Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws were collaborating rather splendidly as Minor Alps. The singer seemed thrilled to share the project’s weight; as she told the Globe in 2013, “It’s strange to not be out there as Juliana Hatfield, solo artist, and to be half of something that is greater than myself, and that’s very rejuvenating.” It couldn’t have been all that strange. Since the early-1990s split of the Blake Babies, Hatfield has periodically ensconced herself in one group or another, with Minor Alps following Some Girls, a Blake Babies reunion, and a stint or two in the Lemonheads.
With a wave of younger bands – everyone from Alvvays to Yuck – exploring a lust for early-‘90s indie-rock idioms, it’s perhaps only fair that some of the original veterans should get a slice of the retro action. Yet few probably predicated a return for The Juliana Hatfield Three; especially given that the trio released only one album (1993’s Atlantic Records-backed Become What You Are) and the fact Hatfield has sustained herself over the last two decades as a respected solo artist and a seasoned collaborator (with the likes of Some Girls, Minor Alps and a briefly reunited Blake Babies). Which begs the question; do we really need a second LP from The Juliana Hatfield Three in 2015? For those fans that loyally helped to crowdfund the album’s recording via Pledge Music, the answer must be an unequivocal ‘yes.