6 only

6. Juliana Hatfield, Only Everything

I don’t think I was the only person at 90FM who actively cultivated celebrity crushes. At the risk of stating the obvious, boys are sorta gross when it comes to that, categorizing those to whom they’re attracted as objects of various degrees of desire in an effort to make sense of, well, mostly their own loneliness. Among my brethren, at least there was a little different set of criteria that guided our fetishizing appraisal of the singers and musicians that captured a shard or two of our desperate, addled hearts. For those of us who favored women, it was less about the varying levels of undress they might embrace and more about how easily we could project our own ramshackle, twentysomething uncertainty onto the performer, usually because of how effectively that performer captured those beset sentiments in song. In short, we were more likely to crush on Juliana Hatfield because she sang about a life we knew. Maybe I’m really only writing about my own personal reaction, but please allow me the emotional safety of assuming the existence of more widespread solidarity in this instance.

Technically, Only Everything is Hatfield’s second solo effort, but only if 1993’s Become What You Are is truly considered a group effort because it was released under the name the Juliana Hatfield Three. Despite the much vaunted (in some circles) recent reunion of that trio, that seems like a stretch to me. Regardless, it’s an admirable extension of the sweet, sad, slightly cynical Hatfield voice that endeared her to so many of us in the first place. Single “Universal Heart-Beat” even comes close to being the definitive Hatfield mission statement, due to its persistent insistence that “A heart, a heart that hurts/ Is a heart, a heart that works.” The rest of the album basically adheres to the general vibe Hatfield established from the moment she broke away from the Blake Babies: giddy pop hooks, slight rough-edged guitars, and vocals that strained to make tenderized feeling be heard above it all. It may not be as compelling as her solo debut, the almost dizzying Hey Babe, but it still delivers individual songs that rank among Hatfield’s finest. “Dumb Fun” is invested with just enough of what it’s title describe yet throws a few sharpened darts (“Your true love is fuckin’ around”), and “What a Life” finds her giving it her best Replacements try (what it mostly sounds like is the eager approximation of his former band that Mats drummer Chris Mars offered on his first solo album, but that comparison seems too obscure to stand on its own).

Like any good crush serving the needs of fragile boys reluctantly trying to figure out adulthood, Hatfield also gave off just a hint that she could use some protecting, that her heart could be won by that fella that swooped in to solve some vexing problem. That’s needlessly diminishing of her own authority as an artist, of course, but her professional experience following Only Everything puts a faint veneer of truth to it. Hatfield’s attempts to record a follow-up were muddled by the persistent meddling of her label, Atlantic Records, in that endlessly vain attempt to coax her into recording an elusive “hit single.” Hatfield eventually asked to be released from her contract, and the material she worked on became the property of the corporate masters she’d just thwarted. With an extended gap between new releases assured, Hatfield’s cultural prominence dropped precipitously. To her credit, Hatfield kept on chugging along despite the setbacks, sometimes with seemingly ad hoc groups and often with creatively-financed solo outings. I’ll admit that I’ve mostly moved on. For those who still nurture that crush, it’s okay. She’s deserving of continuing admiration.

Previously….

An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In
— 46 and 45: 13 Unlucky Numbers and Resident Alien
— 44-42: Elastica, Private Stock, and Death to Traitors
— 41-39: Optimistic Fool, Ben Folds Five, and Above
— 38-36: Collide, Cowboys and Aliens, and Batman Forever
— 35-33: Taking the World by Donkey, One Hot Minute, and Dog Eared Dream
— 32 and 31: Straight Freak Ticket and Besides
— 30-28: Sixteen Stone, Big Dumb Face Shoe Guy, and Cascade
— 27-25: Born to Quit, King, and Hate!
— 24 and 23: Sparkle and Fade and Brown Bag LP
— 22 and 21: University and Pummel
— 20 and 19: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Thread
— 18 and 17: Ball-Hog or Tugboat? and Rainbow Radio
— 16 and 15: Let Your Dim Light Shine and Day For Night
— 14 and 13: Tales from the Punchbowl and Sleepy Eyed
— 12 and 11: Post and Deluxe
— 10: Yes
— 9: To Bring You My Love
— 8: Garbage
— 7: 100% Fun

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