album reviews

Thalia Zedek Band
Liars and Prayers
Thrill Jockey (2008)

It's hard to talk about Thalia Zedek without mentioning her extensive resume: She released her first 7-inch single in 1982 with the band Dangerous Birds, and she has fronted such bands as punk group Uzi, noise-rock outfit Live Skull and indie-rock band Come. Her solo albums are hardly just a postscript to her lengthy career, though: Her first solo release, 2001's "Been Here and Gone," was a minimal, slowed-down affair tinged with sorrow, whereas her latest, "Liars and Prayers," returns to the energy and richness of a full band sound.

The group she has assembled nicely enriches her own guitar work, including the faint trumpet accents on "Lower Allston," the mournful viola on "Next Exit" and the forceful drum fills that pepper the album. But no matter what instrumentation or musicians are behind her, Zedek's most bewitching characteristic by far is her voice. Matching the raspiness of Tom Waits, she bellows gutsy melodies that sound ticked-off, fed-up or just plain weary: You'd hate to be on the receiving end of her disdainful declaration, "I just never imagined I'd still be forgiving you for so long." ("Circa the End").

The songs on "Liars and Prayers" hint at politics without being too explicit. "Do You Remember" refers obliquely to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, while the album's most passionate number, "Begin to Exhume" seems pointed at the current administration. ("Show us the body, the thousands of bodies/And the ones you tried to hide/That you buried deep in lies.") She's vague on the details, but her band's expressive dynamics and the frustration dripping from her voice convey volumes more emotion than any lyrics ever could.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 13 June 2008, Page WE08
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