Sunday, February 13, 2011

10,000 Maniacs: Blind Man's Zoo (1989)


Even the most third-rate, forgotten rock star deserves an opportunity to tell his or her story, and if Natalie Merchant's "Eat for Two" constitutes such a moment, it is surely a reward for the blandly political nonsense that pervaded most of her career with 10,000 Maniacs. A harrowing chronicle of pregnancy, the song is a monument -- brilliantly written, honest, unsentimental, provocative, and gorgeously performed. This track alone prevents any one-handed dismissal of 10KM from attaining validity; it's a singular achievement and belongs in any pantheon of modern pop music.

"Hateful Hate" is the only cut on the remainder of the band's second major label album that even approaches that passion, but Blind Man's Zoo is a far more agreeable recording than its predecessor, the intolerably preachy In My Tribe. Retaining producer Peter Asher (you know him for "World Without Love"), Zoo still covers the dull-sheened jangle pop of the earlier records, but there is a bit more variance here, with genuine sadness and menace on "Hate" and the touchstone "Dust Bowl." And "Trouble Me" is reasonably harmless. As for the rest, I don't remember it and I just listened to it. But "Eat for Two" buys an awful lot of goodwill.

In My Tribe (1987)
MTV Unplugged (1993)

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