What’s Weird About Weird? A disjointed dive into Juliana Hatfield’s new album

Juliana Hatfield Weird
Weird is good. Weird is to be celebrated. Both the album, Juliana Hatfield’s latest, and the concept. I want to make sure that’s established before you think my listing of the weird in this album is anything but a celebration of the not-normal.

I find weirdness to be exciting. Back in high school, my friend Joe and I kept a list of all our wacked-out creative ideas. We called it “The Page of Insanity,” because if anybody who was not us ever saw it, they would surely have had us committed.

I may look like a normal dude but my mind is most certainly weird. Whenever I think about that, I’m reminded of seeing Juliana Hatfield on The New Music, around 1995, when she spoke of the colorful buffalo on the cover of her album Only Everything. I’m paraphrasing but she said something to the effect of it reminding her of herself, suggesting she thinks she’s less interesting on the outside, but exploding with color on the inside. I felt like she was describing me.

And, really, that speaks to what Weird is all about. It’s about what she thinks of as her weirdness (or, perhaps more accurately, what others might view in her as weird): her introversion, her being happy with loneliness. But there are also weird things going on in the lyrics and the music and the production.

So here’s my song-by-song breakdown of the weirdness of Weird:

“Staying In”: “If I go out, somebody might mistake me for a human being.” “I can’t control my face. I try to keep it neutral but sometimes it moves and it betrays inner wiring.” That last one? There she goes describing me again.

“It’s So Weird”: At the very end, really low in the mix, she speaks something I can’t quite make out. Something about, “At the end…?”

“Sugar”: Contradiction can be weird, although that’s nothing new for her. Remember way back in in the early ‘90s in her hit, “My Sister,” when she sang of both loving and hating her sister? She does the same sort of thing here: “Sugar, I hate your guts. Sugar, I love you so much.”

“Everything’s for Sale”: When the intro transitions into the first verse, it’s kind of playfully awkward. It seems like they’re two completely different songs. But then the intro’s guitar riff suddenly resurfaces later in the song.

“All Right, Yeah”: There are all kinds of bonkers lyrics here. “Legs like silvery eels. Come on touch how it feels.” “Oh pour me, I’m a drink. I bet I taste really really, really, really good.” And there’s all kinds of wonderfully weird guitar stuff happening, too – I think my favourite is the squiggly ending to the guitar solo that perfectly transitions into that line about the eels. It sounds like how I’d like to imagine an eel sounds when it swims.

“Broken Doll”: This song is the weirdest of the weird on Weird. Let’s break it down:

  • Well, it starts with what sounds like a really quiet clip from a TV show. That’s pretty weird.
  • Then comes so much guitar weirdness. There’s that scratchy, high-pitched part over the chorus, then she has two guitars playing slightly different parts during the second guitar solo. Now, hold up there. Two guitar solos? Yes, which is unusual for Hatfield. But there are actually THREE! And that’s if you don’t count the intro as a solo, so we could be talking about FOUR!
  • It briefly seems to turn into a completely different song after that second solo.
  • One more note on the second solo: She’s not normally one for studio trickery, but it transitions back into the “normal” part of the song via a blubbery “rewind” sort of sound.

“Receiver”: The chorus effect on the guitar is something pretty different and fun for her.

“Lost Ship”: She’s ready to fly away with aliens. Plus, there’s another bit of studio trickery, with some kind of weird whirly-swirly effect that comes in during the guitar solo, way in the background.

“Paid to Lie”: I gotta say, the only real way this one is weird is by virtue of its not being particularly weird in a sea of weirdness.

“No Meaning”: Remember that thing I said she said on The New Music almost 25 years ago? About all the interesting stuff in her head? She totally contradicts it in the song’s first line: “If you could see what’s inside my head, you’d be disappointed.”

“Do It To Music”: It’s a simple statement that makes so much sense when you really think about it: “Aurora borealis la la la la la la la.”

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