American Laundromat Records
You know an artist is prolific when her 19th solo album does not include releases with her bands (e.g., Blake Babies and Some Girls), work with other artists (e.g., Matthew Caws and Paul Westerberg), or her covers’ collections (e.g., the Police and Olivia Newton John).
Indie stalwart Juliana Hatfield has never been one to deter easily, and she certainly wasn’t going to allow a worldwide pandemic to stifle her creative output. While she created 2009’s acoustic Peace and Love at home, the fully-formed Blood was mostly crafted at home with the help of audio workstation GarageBand and collaborator Jed Davis. Fun synths, intricate guitar lines, and catchy melodies intermingle with buzzing sounds and effects. And the lyrics? Well, the album title says it all. Blood literally and metaphorically covers the record.
The album cover features a hand-sketched profile of a bikini-clad woman diving with her mutilated arms stretched back with blood floating out of the stumps where her hands presumably used to be. Most of the lyrics feature violent imagery that express, among other things, disgust over corruption (the bouncy “Nightmary”) and vengeance against injustice (the walloping “Had a Dream” and the curdling “Chunks”).
To varying degrees, Hatfield has always mixed the personal with the political in her work. 2017’s Pussycat addressed predatory men, the political climate, and predatory men working in politics. And blood is certainly nothing new. Hatfield’s first official studio album, released nearly 30 years ago, Hey Babe, featured the ultra-catchy “Nirvana” with the lyrics, “I slam my hand in the car door/ I scream ‘til I could scream no more/ bloody and mean and rotten to the core.”
Lest you think Hatfield is engaging in black-and-white (oops, I mean binary) thinking, think again. The third from the last track (and first single) “Mouthful of Blood” addresses the lack of nuance, group think, and cancel culture pervading our society over a bright ‘70s chord progression. It starts, “If I say what I want to say/ it just might get me killed/ there’s no freedom in expression/ and I don’t think I will” and the chorus succinctly says it all, “I bite my tongue/ my mouth’s full of blood.” Cathartic and melodic, Blood satisfies on many levels.