Lisa Germano writes the kind of songs you can pull under the covers with you on days when you can't even pull yourself out bed to answer the phone. She also writes songs for the week later when you're back to burning dinner and laughing with your best friend. But would you expect anything less from the woman who named her publishing company Emotional Wench?
The singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (who started out as John Mellencamp's fiddle player) has churned out three upright and beautiful albums (though that number would likely be four if her 1990 indie "On The Way Down From The Moon Palace" ever finds a sympathetic pocketbook to finance its distribution).
In the mind of its maker, Lisa's latest, "Excerpts From A Love Circus" (4AD/PolyGram), is a day off from work compared to 1994's "Geek The Girl", a harrowing album some may recall for the punchy, laconic "Cancer Of Everything" and the frightening "A Psychopath", a song about a stalking that includes a 911 recording of a woman with an intruder inside her home.
Though none of the new songs are nearly as disturbing, the darkness is still there and the humor is even more noir this time around. While she readily admits songs like "I Love A Snot" and "Lovesick" are based on derailed relationships from her past, Germano also insists "Love Circus" isn't a personal album - at least in the diary sense.
"Maybe there's something wrong with me, because everybody thinks it's personal," she says from her house in southern Indiana. "The record is personal, but to me the word personal means things like your clothes, your hair or your boyfriend's name. Sometimes when I write songs, I'll have specific things in there. When I'm trying to figure out what the song is about, I'll step away to where the things become feelings. At that point, it's like, 'This really isn't so personal.'"
Compared to many current female musicians who are marketed by their femaleness (which in some cases horrifically amounts to the old "not bad for a girl"), all the while inundating us with wretched, angsty lyrics and desperately trying to prove how tough they are, Germano could be seen as the ultimate feminist. Besides the fact she doesn't list off all the instruments she plays on her albums, "because I figure people will know I played them anyway," she's also not afraid to show her vulnerability and goffiness both in her voice and words, which actually takes far more guts than the angriest tirade.
One such moment on "Love Circus" is "Victoria's Secret", an atmospheric piano-laced song in which she's mocked by the models in America's most notorious lingere catalog. This could very well be the only song in existence that's heady, droll, sad and ethereal all at once. But that's just Lisa Germano.
"If you're in a good mood and you're getting along fine with the person you're with, then it's a fun magazine to look through," she says. "I've looked through it and thought, 'Ooh, I like this,' or 'Mmmmm, he'd really like that.'"
"When I wrote that song, I'd recently been dumped. I was really bummed out and I thought, 'Maybe someone wrote to me today, maybe I got mail.'" So I went to the post office and there's this slap in the face. The magazine's there and it's like, 'Ha ha, you don't look like me. Nobody likes you. Your boyfriend thinks you're boring.' So it was like, 'What's their secret anyway?' On a bad day, you just didn't ask for that."
written by Erin Hawkins from Eye magazine Sept. 26, 1996 Vol. 5; No. 50 Toronto, CANADA Jeff Keibel Scarborough, ON CANADA [email protected]