Meredith Brooks

Capitol Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


From the first ten seconds of Deconstruction, with its pseudo-African chanting, vicious drum line, and stinging guitar, you know that whatever guitar maven Meredith Brooks does do with this CD, it's not going to be boring. By the time you're fully into the first track, "Shout", with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics ("You're driving home and the traffic's not budging/Laying on the horn, adding to the mess/Then Y2K shuts down LA/Now you've got somethin' to really figure out"), you know Brooks has dodged the bullet and turned out another solid CD full or rock and roll that makes you think, laugh, and feel.

I admit to being biased. I liked Brooks for the moment I first heard the cheerily irreverent "Bitch", and my copy of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Blurring The Edges may be ready to expire from overplay. However, that second CD is always the hardest (see the recent Corrs review). Brooks handles it simply -- she evolves, does a few different things, does a few of the same things, and does at least one audacious cover that's enough to make your head hurt.

Said cover is a drum-driven version of sugar-sweet '60s folkie Melanie's "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)", a treacle-laced tribute to Woodstock. Brooks, with the help of rapper Queen Latifah, turns it into a middle finger in the face of complacency, an angry, joyful denial of anything less than Woodstock's idealism. Brooks believes, and that makes it work.

Brooks doesn't seem afraid to step away from the sound of the first CD. From the heavy keyboards on "All For Nothing", Brooks' voice somewhere between rapping and spoken jazz, a bitter, sad analysis of the end of a relationship, to the almost Tori Amos sound of "Nobody's Home", she shifts like water, dancing across the spectrum of rock. Other notables include the funky "Back To Eden", the arrangement and instrumentation more than a nod to one of Brooks' musical influences, Todd Rundgren; "Careful What You Wish For", a brief flirtation with very light progressive metal; and the acoustic "Sin City". These all work, and work brilliantly; Brooks is a musical chameleon -- her rapid slide from style to style a dizzying, exhilarating process that leaves you exhausted and happy by the time the soft "Back To Nowhere" closes the CD.

The sole miscue on the album: "I Have Everything", a guitar ballad reminiscent of Sheryl Crow. The melody doesn't flatter Brooks' voice, and the guitar and drum work is no better than average. Had the entire CD been like this, we would be bandying about the hackneyed "sophomore slump" cliche; thankfully, this is it, and the next track, the acidly funny "Cosmic Woo Woo", yanks Deconstruction back on track. I think part of the reason I enjoy Brooks' work is that she's not afraid to be funny, both poking fun at herself, her industry, and random targets within range.

Deconstruction is a heck of a second effort, a damn good piece of rock and roll, and doesn't take itself too seriously to boot. It comes heartily recommended.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.