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Jung at heart (continued)

"I still donít have a clue about how you get yourself across to people," Hatfield remarks over lunch at the S&S Deli in Inman Square, just a few doors down from her apartment. "I still donít know how to do that. I donít interact well socially. Iím kind of awkward, and I feel like Iím just going to let people down if I talk too much. Iím just really shy, and people tend to see it as me being aloof or something. I know I can come off that way in interviews. I mean, when I was on Atlantic and getting on MTV and stuff, I didnít really like the attention. Honestly, it just didnít really suit me or my personality. I prefer a more low-key lifestyle."

What Hatfield has learned over the past decade is how to put more of herself into her songs. Her lyrics, in particular, have become more revealing and introspective with each new album. Gone for the most part are the obvious fictional veils that made even a confessional song like "My Sister" (she has no sister, though she has a younger brother) seem disingenuous. And the Hatfield who in 1993 proclaimed sheíd never had sex now seems comfortable not just writing about romance but exploring the messy ins and outs of relationships, whether they involve family ("Daddy, are you asleep/Your sonís a mess and your daughterís a freak" from "Because We Love You"), friends ("Iím not going to answer the phone/Iím not home/Because Jamieís back in town" from "Jamieís in Town"), or lovers ("Iíll wake from a dream and wonder if you miss me. . . . Iíll see my mistake and wish that you were with me" from "Some Rainy Day"). Thereís even a shocker or two: "I know Iím a fair-weather fuck/I only want you when youíre on top" ("It Shouldíve Been You").

Not that all or even any of the above lyrics should be taken as autobiographical. But thereís a confessional quality to the songs on In Exile Deo that Hatfieldís never achieved before. "I think I reveal a lot in my songs. And I do think music is a great way to communicate. In the past couple of years, Iíve been in Jungian therapy, and a lot of these songs were inspired by that ó by looking at things from my childhood and stuff. ĎSunshineí is kind of about my childhood and adolescence, feeling isolated and retreating from painful things. Iím realizing that Iíve been sleeping through my life, and I want change that. I want to start living my life rather than retreating from it. Itís just about fixing the things that are hard to accept about myself. You can fix things. I used to have eating disorders in my teens and 20s, and I pretty much overcame that. That was a big thing in my life for many many years. You get to the point where youíre either going to stop doing the things that are hurting your or youíre not going to be able to move on in your life."

Perhaps because of its introspective nature, the material on In Exile Deo tends to fall on the mellower side of the pop/rock terrain that Hatfieldís been working since the Blake Babies. Itís by no means an acoustic album, but softly strummed chords, jangly melodies, subtle keyboard textures, and mid-tempo grooves dominate the 13 tracks. Thereís the softly sung ballad "Tomorrow Never Comes" (a Dot Allison cover), with its spare, hand-picked acoustic-guitar-and-violin backdrop; thereís also the bluesy, Beatle-esque guitar bashing of the angry "Dirty Dog." But the give-and-take between verses that float on a bed of gently layered vocal harmonies and guitar arpeggios and choruses driven by forceful power chords that characterizes "Tourist" and "Sunshine" ó songs that wouldnít have been out of place in a Blake Babies set ó is more the norm on In Exile Deo.

"I know the album is kind of slow and mellow," Hatfield concedes, "but that wasnít intentional. Itís kind of a fault in me that I canít think ahead and I donít conceptualize at all. Itís always just whatever songs that have come together in that period of time when Iím working on an album because of whatís going on in my life. Itís kind of like recording reality. I kind of wish there had been more rockers. ĎGet in Lineí is the fastest, most-rocking song on the album. And thatís the last one I wrote."

And the albumís title? "It just kind of sounded good. Itís a play on ĎIn excelsis Deo.í Plus, the artist is in exile ó in exile from society. A lot of the songs on the album talk about a form of exile, just being alone and suffering through a period where start to assess your life to see whatís wrong with you, and you decide that youíre either going to change or your life is going to continue on the path of doing the same bad things over and over. Then comes a period of reconstruction or therapy or whatever. And thatís a form of exile, because if youíre going to try to quit drinking or drugs or something, no one can help you. You just have to do the work and confront the harsh realities of yourself and your past."

Juliana Hatfield joins the Violent Femmes, Presidents of the United States of America, the Rapture, the Von Bondies, the Stills, Stellastarr, Elefant, Laguardia, Midtown, the Fire Theft, Just Jack, the Lot Six, Streetdogs, the Unseen, the Explosion, and Runner and the Thermodynamics on the bill for this yearís Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll party, Thursday June 3 on Lansdowne Street in Boston. Tickets are $20; call (617) 423-NEXT.

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Issue Date: May 21 - 27, 2004
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