Renee-Louise Carafice: Tells You To Fight! (Monkey)

Renee-Louise carafice: Sweet, The Leaves of Jamestown
Renee-Louise Carafice: Tells You To Fight! (Monkey)

Frankly I'm always suspicious about the whole music-as-therapy thing: most often the music is godawful, and the lyrics so tortured and self-referential that they rarely reach any further than the bedroom or hospital ward that spawned them.
Which is why I come to Carafice -- institutionalised in Auckland with severe depression in 2005 -- with considerable reservation. And it cuts no ice with me that she was played on bFM because that station wasn't above exploiting Killer Ray in his day, and a number of other "singers" it hailed then discarded back to the streets or obscurity once the programmers or hosts had had their ironic fun.
Well, Carafice is clearly one to make an exception for: her strong songs (recorded in Steve Albini's studio in Chicago with Crowded House engineer Nick Abbott) are disconcertingly angular and although there are -- as expected -- numerous lyrics about oblivion, her "asylum escape song", one for Emily Dickinson and another to a Cruel German Psychiatrist Woman and so forth, she has a compellingly honest voice, a way with a melody, and arrangements which enhance the songs and lift them from bedsit to centre stage.
It helps having Ben King on guitar, and Carafice has her own armory of dobro, piano, mellotron and casiotone.
And in that regard it is interesting she has opened in Chicago (where she now lives) for the very wonderful Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Where he brings more wry humour to play than Carafice, the similarities of lo-fi moody narratives and observations with flashes of understanding and anger are evident.
Carafice also lets rip however -- the abrasive but compelling To Run, the scarily honest Cruel German -- and House on Fire has all the grip of early Velvet Underground.
Yes, Carafice is into her "story", but propelled by a band, the smart song structures, and material that can be quite gripping, this album is well worth serious consideration.
And wasn't it Jonathan Richman who opened a song with that memorable line, "When you get out of the hospital, let me back into your life . . ."?

Your Comments

global village idiot - Dec 21, 2008

"I heard you were thinking of killing yourself over some sixteen year old girl/boy, don't go acting crazy now"... is the first thing I ever heard RLC sing and she's been bowling me over ever since. The song it's from - Bodhisattva - is a wondrous thing. Minimal but huge, smart as a paper-cut lyrics, hip references to the Pixies and Dragonball-Z, a beaut low-tech vid. And what a sweet bittersweet way to try and stop a friend topping themselves.

I'm only reading now about her own struggles to maintain equillibrium, and not sure I want to buy into the soap. She, obviously, sorted things out and has come out the other side with a knock-out collection of songs. But it's the voice and delivery that really sell it. So casual and yet so in control.

Debut of the year for me, and goes straight into my top 3. Congrats also to Nigel Braddock of Monkey Records for signing her up and launching her into the world. He is a Bodhisattva in his own right. Namaste.

The velvet connection - the col play album has Venus in furs viola - Jogn Cale.

global village idiot - Dec 21, 2008

whoops - some detritus i hadn't seen crept onto the end of that last comment. Sorry. But I was just going to note, Graham, your references to the Velvets in both my top picks so far. RL Carafice is channeling Nico at times for sure. While with Cold Play you'd swear John Cale was doing some 'Venus in Furs' virtuoso viola work for them. Maybe he is?

Martin - Jun 6, 2009

Renee-Louise has done some hurting,so has most everyone,to a degree.R-L however has such a nice alluring voice she went and knocked up an album.She also plays a few instruments alongside Ben King whose slick guitar makes a handful of songs compelling listening indeed.On Bodhisattva they let rip and if you've heard that song as many times as I ,the sweet guitar riff is so familiar,but it matters not as she somehow conjures up an image of what feels like the mid 80's in a fine display.Her plea to her character to stay together is heartfelt and winning.She never skirts the issue of the day but that `hospital line' on a song later, eventually made me a bit uncomfortable.Reminded me a little of Evan Dando who on one of his better albums blathered on about his losing it and time in a mental health ward.It does stretch your patience but like this album of Renee's there are plenty of real high points in this gutsy album.Not consistent enough I feel but her next album ,you'd think won't contain a song named after an anti-depressant drug because she might be over that prescription by then.

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