Cat Power: You Are Free

Cat Power
You Are Free

I'm sitting in my room a number of months ago feeling the effects of a night of one too many. My lights are low and while sitting unsteadily on the edge of my bed I stumble through my Winamp playlist trying to find this new cover of "Wonderwall. " I vaguely remember falling in love with at the beginning of the day. It's quite possibly the most beautiful version of this song I've ever heard. Better, in fact, than all the other covers that have surfaced since the one Oasis originally enchanted me with back in 1995. Better, in fact, than that very original track which Oasis themselves made so famous and so popular. Cover songs are tricky, because not only do you have to repeat an already existing, usually respected song, you have to make it your own. This is exactly what Cat Power has achieved with "Wonderwall" though, and by the end of it all I'm left to wonder... "Oasis who?... "
"Who cares!"
Original songsters at this moment became irrelevant and the real and only question then became, "who is Cat Power?"

It is shortly thereafter that I armed myself with You Are Free, Cat Power's latest full length album release, and swiftly thrust myself into the world that is Chan Marshall. Right away you will come to understand the theme this time around to be Freedom, or so her preference of titles would lead us to believe, You Are Free being the choice phrase to dress up this pretty package. Then there is the song entitled "Free," which I can only understand to symbolizethe importance of true personal expression, untainted and non-superficial. And although the title list stops there, where freedom is concerned, the subject continues on in other works such as "Maybe Not."

    "We all do what we can
    So we can do just one more thing
    We can all be free
    Maybe not with words
    Maybe not with a look
    But with your mind"

These lines seem to come straight from the psyche, thinking it's caged and begging to be set free. How easy it is to trap ourselves in various forms of physical and mental cages. So is the condition of this life and our inability to seemingly escape from it through means such as vocal expression or righteous action. Perhaps this really is a case of mind over matter. Perhaps this is what Chan Marshall has discovered about freedom. It's hard to tell. My interpretation is merely, at best, guesswork. What is evident though is this: Cat Power's style is stripped down and raw, using only the bare essentials: voice, soul, heart, emotion and simple instrumentation. It's virtually the Naked Chef of the indie rock music scene.

But, it isn't always easy to listen to Cat Power; and that right there becomes the trouble. I'm almost afraid to listen to her on a good day, but then again, I'm also afraid to listen on a bad one. Marshall's voice is so real, so close and so emotionally powerful; it has the ability to alter any previous mood I may have possessed. Though her intentions are somewhat unclear through her abstract lyrical styling, the result is almost always the same for me: A ride through every sentiment from solemn to empowered to down right depressed. Perhaps it is the way her voice aches, the slow and calculating speed it travels or its mellow intensity. Forcing myself to listen becomes a somewhat masochistic experience. Either she's singing right to me at that very moment or I'm wishing I wrote those words myself. And let us not confuse any of this either, because despite how deep Cat Power's music has the ability to touch me, the ride is always a welcomed one. I'm certainly envious at the ability that some people seem to possess, such as Chan Marshall, to transform their thoughts and feelings into incredible works of audible art.


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