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Song of the Day: Shannon McArdle – Leave Me for Dead

May 24, 2011

“Shannon, that’s a little too close,
can you take a step back please?”

Sometimes it’s just best not to know where art comes from. It is, however, the first question artists are asked: Where do you get your ideas?

Countless forests and endless hours of videotape have been sacrificed to answering this insipid inquiry, yet so little has been gained. It is as if the art itself is a scam unless the artist can persuasively account for its conception. Such interrogations are perhaps to be expected as our culture is pitifully addicted to misguided notions of authenticity.

And no one one in post-WWII America has understood this more than Bob Dylan. When reporters wanted to know where his songs came from, he lied. He spun tall tales. He told them what they wanted to hear … but he didn’t tell them the truth. He had the good sense to keep that to himself. And the thing about Bob Dylan is that I don’t want to know the truth (and I have at least three Dylan biographies with unbroken spines on my bookshelf  to stand as my witness). The myth is so much more beautiful than real life. The myth lets the music exist on its own terms.

If an album ever suffered from knowing too much about the circumstances of the artist’s inspiration, it is Shannon McArdle’s Summer of the Whore. Shannon was formerly in The Mendoza Line and was married to bandmate Tim Bracy. Their relationship did not end well and this album is billed as her revenge. (I have probably typed too much.) It is a marketing decision that certainly did Ms McArdle’s music no favors. The album never gets out from under the narrative of its painful inspiration. Summer of the Whore is a confessional, awkward record. It wears its broken heart on its sleeve, but to know the details of its origin does not enhance its enjoyment, it merely makes it cringe-inducing. As so happens to me, it feels like being cornered by a drunk girl in a bar who desperately wants to fuck her pain away and is more than happy to tell you all about the sad story that landed her on the stool next to yours.

And there’s nothing sexy about that.

It’s too bad, there are actually some great tunes on the album, a few that Liz Phair woulda coulda shoulda written had she not chosen to try her hand at being a teenage pop star instead of holding her reign as the broken indie rock blowjob queen everyone wanted her to be.

Shannon McArdle – Leave Me for Dead MP3

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