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Thalia Zedek | You're A Big Girl Now EP (Acuarela/Kimchee Records)
2002 has certainly been the year that celebrated both the art of the skilful cover version (see Giant Sand's 'Cover Magazine' and Johnny Cash's 'American IV: The Man Comes Around' for reference) and the welcoming warmth of weathered voices (Cash again, Lee Hazlewood and Tom Waits).  So ex-Come vocal-shredder Thalia Zedek is in good company with this US/Spanish-only EP-come-mini-album, which incorporates two covers and four new songs.  Fans who revelled in the dark ornate strains of Zedek's solo debut 'Been Here And Gone' from 2001, will know what to expect to a degree.  Plaintive doom-struck piano chords, woozy waltzing strings, dirty but discord-free blues guitar strands and that worn as a tramp's trainer voice.  From the originals, it's the soaring Everything Unkind which captures Zedek in the finest condition.  At the fore of a metaphorical musical marriage between Willard Grant Conspiracy and Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, Zedek paints herself as a torn and trampled ex-lover far beyond caring; "Leave through the backdoors of your mind / And I'll take back everything that was unkind."  The other top-notch new cut, JJ85, relies less on rustic non-rock arrangements but more on sumptuous mantra-like layered guitars, which glide over the off-beat percussive bed like an outtake from Sonic Youth's recent 'Murray Street' album.  The other two self-penned cuts, No Fire and No Substitutions are, however, somewhat understaffed in the melody department (which won't be a surprise for Come-followers who struggled to find tunes in the band's remorselessly tough 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' from 1994), leaving them to drift by in a dreary fog.  Although Zedek may struggle with the unevenness of her self-composed material, her reinterpretations of Bob Dylan's You're A Big Girl Now and The Velvet Underground's Candy Says are inspired beyond expectation.  In the same way that she made Leonard Cohen's Dance Me To The End Of Love a phenomenal personalised centrepiece to her aforementioned 'Been Here And Gone' long-player, Zedek takes these (admittedly obvious) classics straight to her own heavy heart and frazzled-soul.  With Candy Says, Zedek makes it feel like she knows and understands New York transvestites a whole lot better than Lou Reed ever did.  Grasping the words like a woman who may have just crawled a thousand floors to reach the other side of her life, Zedek makes You're A Big Girl Now seem like a farewell to her traumatic smack-wracked earlier life.  With four new essentials and two flawed but forgivable fillers, this is a rarity worthy of its inflated import price.

Adrian Pannett
December 2002