JAIMIE VERNON – THE SLOW BURN OF PANTOMANIA
We’ve been swaying in the sluice of commercial music’s fetid breeze for so long that we’ve lost the ability to appreciate the slow burn, the rolling, creeping emotional wash of songs and artists that paint outside the lines of commercial success. The post-MTV era has led us down a path of saccharine, instantly gratifying need where our senses are over-stimulated – like a million neon roadside billboards or a caffeine rush to the soul in an effort to forget we live banal or uninteresting, tedious lives.
Some people have fooled themselves into calling it FUN. It’s a sedative that keeps us from feeling real emotion, experiencing the duality of happiness and pain in our complex human arsenal. It also puts coats of paint over them and buries them beneath the real versions of ourselves. Sadly, our music choices reflect this. If it isn’t shiny, happy booty-slapping pop detritus, it passes by unnoticed as we Bullet Train our way through life. We haven’t got time to be ‘deep’ anymore. There’s Billy’s soccer practice and a bouncy castle for Little Princess’ birthday party to attend to first.
There really are differences between the generations and some of what has been lost is the ability to chill. Once upon a time it was orchestrated and pompous – a concerto in a stiff collar on a Sunday afternoon followed by High Tea and the occasional glimpse of a woman’s naked ankle. Rock and roll turned that on its head and made music the groove by which we could dance and fuck. But there were those that just wanted to continue to listen and to rinse their aural palette with sound that could soothe the savage beast.
Someone that’s been colouring outside the commercial lines and marching to a laid back drummer for quite some time is Betty Moon.
Her entire approach is a respite from the bombast presented not only by modern pop music, but female entertainers in general. Betty’s not out to prove she can out screech the wallowing divas. She doesn’t need to. Her audience doesn’t want her to. Instead, Betty sets about establishing a theme to each of her releases based less on concepts and more on the mood that strikes her. It’s contagious.
Moon’s discography is lengthy and dates back to the mid-1980s under the pseudonym Bambi and re-emerging as a gothic rocker in the early 1990s on a major label. After disentangling herself from the label trap she took a hard look at her personal direction – which drove her west to California and thus began the creative trajectory she’s now on.
The albums ‘Stir’, ‘Doll Machine’, ‘Demon Flowers’, ‘Rollin Revolution’ and last year’s ‘Amorphous’ have been deliberate career builders. Each a sign-post to personal growth and musical outreach. There’s a spirituality about her approach and it’s not some New Age chakra con.
On the brand new Evolver Records 8-track CD ‘Pantomania’ she’s holding virtual court on a plush velvet couch, setting the lights on low and burning incense. Betty’s running the show now – writing the tunes and co-producing the new release. And it’s a sonic bath that needs to be listened to on headphones…or while driving the Pacific Coast on a clear California night.
Moon’s vocals are still smoky and hypnotizing as it lures you into dreamy tracks like “Feel the Pressure” and the siren calls on “Come Into My Light”. There’s a come-hither sexiness to her approach at times. Don’t be fooled. She can bite as well. “Thunder” cracks and pops while “Temple Diablo” takes a Santana-esque psychedelic trip to mesmerise and distract you into a false sense of comfort. It’s a trap and Betty swallows you with her bewitching taunts.
The traps are also made of honey. The first is “Fire Hose” – a Parliament meets Chic meets Sade dance track that invokes you to shake your ass even if it’s from the cocoon of your car seat or a lounge chair. The other is “Hunger Pants” about craving and desire – of life and of the flesh. The song bounces on a Stones groove a la “Paint It Black” or “Under My Thumb”.
It’s no surprise then to find a re-imagining of the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” completely stripped bare and following in the new minor-chord Emo trend set by Gary Jules with Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” so many years ago. Deep beneath the new arrangement the song still maintains the intensity of the Sisters of Mercy version from the 1980s. Deflecting with acoustic guitars and mood-building dynamics over a bed of keyboards and drum loops, Moon is able to stretch vocally and evoke the song’s plaintive cries.
The album also features Betty Moon’s cover of “It’s No Good” by Depeche Mode as the lead-off track and single. Stripped away are the keyboards, but adds the 1980s-appropriate pulsing guitar we’ve all come to know from The Smith’s “How Soon Is Now?”. The song is a looping chant of Martin Gore’s reverb soaked lyrics. And it works to great effect.
Expect Betty Moon to continue carving new audioscapes well into another decade or two. She’s on a path of self-discovery and the wake is getting wider…dragging the uninitiated along for the ride. And one of these days the rest of the world will have slowed down enough to catch her in the passing lane.
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Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon