So I was listening to some Ani DiFranco during a long vehicle voyage this month, when I struck it. No, not a motorcycle, since I was heading out of Milwaukee and every Harley-Davidson in the country was on the other side of the highway. I struck upon why I can listen to Ani when she covers some of the same themes I have maligned Matchbox Twenty for covering over and over.
For example, the failed relationship between a person and a woman. Ani DiFranco covers this ground in her song “Marrow” while Matchbox Twenty did it in their hit “If You’re Gone“. Both songs depict the member of the opposite sex in a less than flattering light, but not with the same skill:
|cuz i got tossed out the window of love’s el camino
and i shattered into a shower of sparks on the curb.
you were smoking me weren’t you
between your yellow fingers,
you just inhaled and exhaled without saying a word.
|I think you’re so mean
So Ani’s got a little more lyrical depth. Matchbox Twenty’s collective emotions run from A (self-pitying emotions when dumped, a la “Rest Stop” or “If You’re Gone”) to B (self-pitying emotions when you don’t belong, such as “Bent”,”Crutch” “Disease” or “Unwell”).
Ani DiFranco can capture the ins, from “Shameless” to “Hell Yeah” to “Shy“, and the outs, such as or “Out of Range“. No one’s better at capturing the worst, most poignant song, the love song about a couple who almost made it, such as “School Night” or “Both Hands“, or the songs about love yet to be resolved (“The Diner”). I won’t even begin troubling you with her political or girl power lyrics.
How about the music pacing and variation? Oh, yeah.
Face it, Matchbox Twenty, or matchbox twenty, or m20 or whatever the hell they’re going to be for their next album, has two speeds: Slow Moody Grunge Lite, like “If You’re Gone”, and Regular Moody Grunge Lite, which is everything else that moves a half speed faster.
Ani, on the other hand, varies tempos and even styles. From I-Wish-I-Were-At-A-Slam “Coming Up” spoken word to “Little Plastic Castle” I-Am-A-Folk-Song-Ha!-Tricked-You-I-Am-Ska, Ani varies the rythym and tempo as well as the theme.
Ani DiFranco’s a grown up, and a person who’s, for lack of a better term, thirtysomething can listen to Ani. Her many albums provide enough variation that an aging Gen Xer can wallow in self-evaluation with her, without riding the path enough to rut it. Ani’s music grows with us, and we with it.
If someone reading this feels like it, pass the memo to Robbie and crew. I don’t think he’d listen to me if I told him.
Also, please, no one mention to the Republican National Committee that I even know who Ani DiFranco is. I so treasure those personal mass mailings from Dick Cheney.