Suzzy & Maggie Roche - Why The Long Face
Suzzy and Maggie Roche have been singing together for most of their lives, and are in the band The Roches with sister Terre. The Roches have been around for years, and have performed and recorded with Philip Glass, Paul Simon and The Indigo Girls to name but a few. This new release by Maggie and Suzzy is a combination of their collaborations with other writers, and some songs of their own.
The Roches blend influences from all sort of different sources, from church choir music, traditional Irish folk, contemporary folk, rock, country, and pop. This album though sees them mostly in country territory - there is a real sense of America about this album. It is also a very adult orientated album, with a smooth, slick production throughout.
As for the collaborations, these are with a variety of different people, from fellow songwriters to writers and poets. "La Vie C'Est La Vie" was written around a poem by Jessie Fauset, and it is a very sad song indeed, set against a gently plucked violin and a warm cello.
"For Those Whose Work is Invisible" is written by novelist Mary Gordon, and it is a funny song - all about those whose work never sees any recognition. The words tumble out, hardly scanning. It comes across as a prayer to God, to give thanks for these people who toil in vain for no reward. The words, however rushed, are actually quite comforting, and skilfully written - as are most of the words on this album, which do come across more as poems than lyrics.
However, some of it is rather gooey. "A Day in the Life of a Tree", written by Brian Wilson and Jack Rieley, is available on the Beach Boys album "Surfs Up". It is as bad as its sounds, quite literally about what it must be like being a tree. Obviously it is using this as a metaphor, but the words are so literal and (no pun intended) sappy that the effect is just lost.
Sometimes though, it does hit home. "Training Wheels" is written by Jon Turner, who as a child was diagnosed with Aspberger's. It is a song about those little wheels you get on your bike, and is about an autistic boy being picked on for still having these at the age ten. We are asked to compare this to: "Imagine if a blind person was made fun of cause he couldn't see". It is actually quite a touching song, if a little sentimental.
Some songs though are frankly baffling. "The Long Lonely Road to Nowhere" is a song about a self-help book Suzzy Roche bought and liked, and it is very hard to know whether to take the song seriously or not. The last verse talks about how the book is "a powerful lesson in personal change, highly effective to". It is not often you come across a book review in a song lyric.
This is an odd album, which goes back and forth from the crass to the touching. The songs have a conscious, making this at times like listening to an episode of "That's Life". Occasionally it is a little embarrassing to listen to - especially when the lyrics are at their most banal and mawkish. One for more adult ears, if you like contemporary folk mixed with country, but cynics or younger listeners should leave this well alone.