Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Hissing of Summer Lawns


There's something a little dangerous or awry about The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975).  Things have gone terribly wrong in Los Angeles.  It's no longer relationships and parties, but drug deals and unhappy marriages; it's the dysfunctional city of Alan Rudolph's Welcome to L.A.  Hissing is a much more morose album because of it.  "California" has effectively fallen into the ocean (fellow Angelenos will comprehend that allusion).  The range of influences is astonishing: the impenetrable-yet-gorgeous "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow" and the greatest song ever written about someone named Edith are so lovely, despite the smog and the cocaine and the infidelity.  The recurring lyrical theme is married life in high society, and Joni delivers her brutal verdict in both the title track and the phenomenal "Harry's House." "The Jungle Line", meanwhile, announces an altogether different Joni Mitchell - a purely conceptual piece, lyrically and musically, to the extent that she drowns out her guitar with the drone of a synthesizer and the abstract intellectualism of her words.  This song, along with the arguably pretentious finale "Shadows and Light" are exhibit A for why this album was a bullseye for reviewers.  Nonetheless, time has etched The Hissing of Summer Lawns into my canon, those songs I can hear even when they're not playing ("Songs are like tattoos").  The Hissing of Summer Lawns is an AM9.

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