Monday, December 1, 2008

Graham Parker "The Mona Lisa's Sister" 1988

If I had to make a list of ten albums that I couldn't live without (which would itself make a great post) I would include Graham Parker's "The Mona Lisa's Sister" on it. This album topped many best of lists in 1988. Graham Parker while critically acclaimed in the US he has not sold many albums. He is generally lumped in with Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson because there is a similarity to their music.... snarly and acid tongued but his music has changed from the initial new wave tinged rock n' roll. On this album he favors a stripped down acoustic sound but don't worry it rocks.
On the incredible single "Get started. Start a fire" he tells the tale of three victims, including Marilyn Monroe, and recommends the purifying power of revenge over passive suffering.
While not exactly politically correct it is searing.

The Mona Lisa's sister doesn't smile
She tried to pose but only for a while
Leonardo sent her home since then she has lived alone
With her few belongings and a copy of a painting of herself unhappy
She is going to burn it when she's ready

Get started, start a fire

Marilyn was lying all alone
with an empty bottle by the phone
Kennedy was not around
She was cold when she was found
But she'd gone where goddesses are sleeping
Where the molten tongues of flame are leaping
Or where the angel's hearts are beating

Joan of arc was burning at the stake
somebody had made a big mistake
She had lit a cigarette
in an airport where you get
Your fingers taken off for smoking.
Meanwhile up the road a factory's choking
The ones who killed her work there I'm not joking

The album is infused with Parker's struggle with self doubt and the creative process. Parker had notorious run-in's about artistic freedom with his previous record company Mercury Records. His send off to them was the withering song "Mercury Poisoning".
You get the idea just from the title.
This is a classic album from the 80's, a time that many people feel that not a ton of quality music was released.
This one is a doozy!
Check it out.

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