In 2010 Juliana Hatfield released the home-made acoustic album Peace & Love, followed by a project of privately recorded acoustic songs for fans at $1,000 each. The subtext was clear. In 2008 she really had been musing on How To Walk Away from music (or at least the industry part). Although there were artistic, creative factors behind these two subsequent acoustic projects, the finances of making and selling music were a key part of the story. She might be quitting for real this time.
It all turned out good in the end though. The custom song project led to Juliana proclaiming a rediscovery of her mojo. Winter 2010/11 found her playing some unexpected acoustic shows with Evan Dando and writing a tour diary bloggy thing where she announced that she was "starting to like music again".
Come the start of 2011 she resurrected her Twitter and Facebook presence and then boom! announced that a new album was coming.
It turned out to be a fan funded affair. There are flaws in such projects and they don't always make sense for some artists. PledgeMusic however, has proved a perfect fit for Juliana.
There's Always Another Girl might never have been made without it.
When the project launched on April 5, 2011 us fans lapped it up. To fund the album, pledge incentives included signed CDs, Skype chats, t-shirts, guitars and variety of Juliana's paintings. Within a few hours of the project going live, the target was reached, setting a PledgeMusic record in the process.
Juliana reacted with genuine shock but for the fans, the project's immediate financial success was no surprise. The honor system had worked well since 2004, the $1,000 songs had sold, she'd succesfully auctioned her guitars. PledgeMusic was always going to work.
Within a few short months, Juliana had prepared the songs, posted frequent updates on the recording project, videos from the studio, added more pledge incentives to meet demand and There's Always Another Girl was complete.
It was released to pledgers on 27 July 2011 and to the rest of the world on 30 August 2011.
In the press release, Juliana said it "was loosely based on the concept of failure" - a tagline that could easily be applied to any of her albums.
A theme which stands out from this album, if not in the lyrics, is a celebratory one. Juliana making music. People listening to it. Fans paying for it. Everybody happy. How to not walk away.
To the songs:
From Juliana's tweets and PledgeMusic comments it seems the track order was random. If so, let us all pray to the gods of song sequencery as Change The World is PERFECT as an opener.
Similar in tone to the 2010 acoustic songs and lyrically the 'failure theme' is set up.
i was gonna change the world
but i’m not gonna change the world
i was gonna change my ways
but i have not changed
Simple. The acceptance of who we are and what has passed - a repeated topic in Juliana's songs of recent years - gets another angle.
Taxicab breaks the acoustic familiarity with energetic full on band rifforama. As the studio video showed, yes sir she can boogie:
Only in the studio, mind. Take Juliana to one of those new fangled beat disco youth night club things and you'll get a different response. She'll want to go home. The music's too loud. She certainly Don't Wanna Dance.
Track 4 is the title track. There's Always Another Girl is a familiar tune to many fans, having debuted as a demo in 2009 when it had the suffix of "For Lindsay Lohan". Back then Juliana told Stereogum:
It's so gross and nasty for people to be watching and waiting and almost cheerleading for Lindsay to relapse, or get in a car crash or whatever. Horrible.
The Lohan reference may be gone in 2011 but the song is largely unchanged as is its relevance to any other (there's always another) girl.
Changing the album title (from Speeches Delivered To Animals And Plants as originally planned) to match this track was also wise in many ways, not least the suitability to the artwork.
Candy Wrappers is a new uptempo head nodding version of Where I'm Going from the 2009 downloads.
The acoustic album had no artificial reverb. Someone Else's Problem does its best to make up for this with Juliana's vocals sounding like they were captured in a deep cavern with a 1980's dictaphone. The song has a mid-90's post grunge sound that Juliana hasn't visited since, err, the mid-90's.
Sex And Drugs has been well received by fans and critics. Time will tell if its monotony will lend to repeat plays.
Stray Kids will also be familiar to completists, being a reworked version of Bringing You Down Again from the 2009 honor downloads.
Failure is this reviewer's favourite track. By far. As pivotal as the title track - conceptually and sequentially. Managing to summarise Juliana's sounds of the last decade or so, yet still being fresh.
shooting blades of grass
shadows move so fast
all the things i thought i knew
now where do i go and what do i do
The melody and tone that carries the above lines is the best few seconds on the entire album. A little gem.
Vagabond lowers the pace with a meandering ode to a female drifter.
After that, it's time for Juliana to mess with us. Our first listen on track number 11 offers a 'huh?' moment akin to the first time we heard This Lonely Love.
Despite being a totally different slowed down take on Candy Wrappers, the familiarity to that song 6 tracks back (it is the same song) causes a proper kerfuffle. It's called And Again. Oh I get it - And Again. From the track order obviously. Oh no, wait, it's from the lyrics. Or is it? Give up and move on to the next song.
Batteries is a synth laden complaint against the power expiration of handheld electronics. Except it isn't. Towards the end of the song there's a struggle to complete it and Juliana resorts to exhausted profanity. A metaphor for all energy sapping traits we pick up with age.
The penultimate track is Wasting Time - a song so Dando-esque, it sounds like a cover from It's A Shame About Ray. Hanging with Evan has it's rewards. Proper old school indie-Hatfield.
We finish with Thousands Of Guitars. Perhaps addressing Juliana's own regret over the sale of her guitars in recent years, and placing such irrationality into context. The lyrics reassure and the album ends with a lovely upbeat message:
hold on to your soul
never give it away
and you'll always be alright
As an album There's Always Another Girl sits somewhere between it's two predecessors. Lacking some of the post-production polish of How To Walk Away and, inevitably, a more eclectic collection of noises than on Peace & Love.
Lyrical repetition becomes, um, repetitive on this album, perhaps more than ever in Juliana's work this side of a Some Girls album. Arguably it isn't one of Juliana's strongest records in that respect.
Juliana's last three full solo albums - Made In China, How To Walk Away and Peace & Love - are easily identified by style, theme and context. There's Always Another Girl falls short here. It's a collection of songs, a few of which perhaps seem half-finished in comparison, to these ears at least. Those previous albums set such a high bar. To fall short is no surprise or complaint, especially given the speed at which this project was completed.
More than anything this album is a joy because it's a result of Juliana doing what she loves - making music, something she can focus on without the burden of excessive promotion and touring. For those of us who have spent years, and in many cases, decades listening and loving what she does, and selfishly wishing it wouldn't stop, There's Always Another Girl is reason to celebrate.
A covers album may be next. Bring it on.
The batteries are recharged.
I wrote this review for liveontomorrow.co.uk - a Juliana Hatfield fansite because I could.
You can order There's Always Another Girl at Juliana's official site.