Little Black Dress & Other Stories
You put the CD into the changer and press play•
So you walk into this bar, you know the kind, where the penthouse dames mingle with the maids, the art students with their gullible patrons, marines with their town chicks and just a whole bunch of men who jumped, fell and landed on their ass with a drink in their hand.
Standing onstage is this girl in a little black dress.
When she starts to sing she’s got something to say, and she says it in this way designed to separate the boys from the men, if you know what I mean and I think you do. She cuts through the close heat of the small bar with an un-cramped cool that Jimmy Olsen types would call keen. Clearly a woman with an eye on her nostalgia, she sounds the way music used to sound before it became all ambient landscapes of flawless technique.
She looks like she’s been around the block a time or two, if you know what I mean. There’s a worried look on her face that makes you think she isn’t so sure the audience isn’t going to strike at her like a snake. And in this beer-soaked crowd, I’d say she’s got about a 50/50 chance that they might do just that, and they might not pay any attention to her at all.
And there you sit in your Hall and Oates T-Shirt with your picture of David “the most beautiful man in the world” Sylvain in your wallet, acutely aware of the copy of Tears For Fears’ Going to California [live] video in your collection back home. And you reflect that some records could well use some ambient landscapes of flawless technique, if only to freshen them up when they get a little too arid.
Which brings us back to you as you watch the girl in the dress. She wears it well, but somehow, she seems to lack the confidence to really fill it.
Celsi is deserving of attention; you suspect she must put on a really killer live show (when the liquor is flowing). But the very act of taking her out of an airless club and into an air-conditioned (you’re guessing) studio may have been what weakened it. Like a person who can talk for days and nights and still be on the same subject the day after tomorrow, Celsi has made an album of material which, while individually punchy (the title song and “Summer Fling,” especially), collectively is a little bit limp.
It’s just not enough to be a collection of little mini-movies, especially if all you can do is talk about them prosaically.
Put another way, which would you rather do, take a hot shower with a 21 year-old Virginia Madsen (which, by the way, is what happens to us when we die if we’ve been good) or listen to someone tell you about it?
Great care and innovation has clearly been taken with the albums artwork and concept. The cover is homage to those sleazy, dog-eared noir mystery paperbacks. The CD opens up to contain, not the songs’ lyrics (those can be found at Celsi’s web site) but little snippets of short stories that inform each songs mood. Written in that same bad, lurid style that characterizes said books (much like this review).
Unfortunately some of them are more compelling than the songs they support.
“Above her, a collage of empty coathangers twisted and swayed, banging out a random, tuneless melody like something out of a Chinese detective movie•’Sorry, Darling,’ they seemed to say, ‘It’s just not enough to be the prettiest girl in Madison’•” — “Empty Hangers”
You admire the girl in the black dress, but you remain untouched, and maybe it’s just as well. Girls like that never come completely as advertised, anyway. There’s always something a little more hard to deal with than you expect. And god help you, you think you can save her.
“She fingered a diamond earring and surveyed the territory, fiddled with her glove as if she had no idea she had the whole place coiled up like a snake in an army boot.” — “Day After Tomorrow”
Anny Celsi: http://www.annycelsi.com/