Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Towards Ecstacy

Thanks to my recent attempts at library reorganization, here is yet another CD I really don’t remember buying, and had no idea was even in the house…

This is a review more of my reaction to this artist (and her fans) moreso than this album, though I will talk about the record as well.

Half a lifetime ago, I strongly disliked Sarah McLachlan, and it had nothing to do with the music. This was totally a situation where, as the mighty Sloan said, “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” I knew many young women who referred to this artist as Sarah, as if they knew her personally. Her music spoke to them. If I ever said ANYTHING about her that even in any miniscule way could be construed as minor disagreement with their firmly-held love for all things Sarah, they were immediately defensive and I was an asshole and just wrong wrong wrong. It was a cult. There, I said it.

I was even told once, by a young woman (and I’m paraphrasing, after all these years) that “I couldn’t possibly understand Sarah because I’m not a woman.” Hahaha what. Hooboy.

So, of course, I stayed well and the hell away from it all. I just didn’t care enough. And if it meant hanging around those rabid close-minded assholes (yeah that’s right, back atcha, baby), I wanted nothing to do with it. It was no big loss for me – I thought it sounded very same-y to me, anyway.

I also disliked that vocal slide/crack thing she does. It’s an affectation I can do without – I know the lady can sing very well without it. But I do love this album’s title. I think we’re all fumbling towards some sort of ecstacy in our lives. So there’s that.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, what did I get out of the record now, 21 years after its release?

It’s actually fairly hypnotic, very capably-played jazzy rock electronic pop and piano music. It’s really very strong. Her vocals work perfectly with it, which has to be why it’s so popular too. This time around, I still liked her singing but still very much disdained the vocal affectation thing. Ah well. We all have things we’re known for – with her, it’s that cracked voice thing, with me it’s GIVE ‘ER! So be it.

There are lots of hit songs here, you know what they are. And the ones that weren’t hits are strong enough too. It’s a solid enough record, in and of itself and for the kind of music it is. It was built for the early 90s.

There were a couple of weaker songs. I definitely could do without the falsetto garbage of both Mary, and Fear. The song called Ice is one step up from those Enya wannabes that play harp at the mall and try to sell you CDs and crystals. But I really like the jazzy swing of Ice Cream, and probably the strongest song here is one called Elsewhere.

You know, I always thought Hold On would make a great punk song. The chords are so simple: G D C, and the chorus Am D Am C, and one last bit that’s Em G C D, Em G C D Am D Am C G. Seriously, just speed the damn thing up! “Hold on, hold to yourself ‘cos this is gonna hurt like hell!” Could totally be a punk song, two minutes or less. Go go go!

If I worked at a record label and heard this album without knowing anything about the artist, I’d tell you it was gonna be a hit. It just has that quality to it.

But, after discovering it in its dusty pit downstairs, after all this time, and honestly not even remembering when I would have bought the damn thing, how much will I play this CD now that I’ve heard it for review? Not that much, and I am highly unlikely to go buy more of her CDs because of this playback. But I disliked it less now than I did back then. Probably because I don’t know any rabid cult member Sarah fans anymore, so I’m free to think what I want about it.

12 thoughts on “Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Towards Ecstacy

  1. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) says:

    Like Sarca, I was a fan as soon as Touch was released in the US (’89, I believe), and I loved Solace nearly as much. I saw her a few times in small theaters in the early- to mid-90s before she became huge, and it was nice to see so many people finally embracing her music (I knew a few women who loved Jewel but had never listened to Sarah…what???). She deserved, and earned, her success. Unfortunately, her albums became too same-y and I lost interest about a decade ago. It’s been a while since I played any of her albums but I’m glad they’re in my collection, waiting for another spin in the future. She’s not for everyone, but in the right mood she’s as good as it gets.


    1. Sarca says:

      Rich, was she very popular in ’89-91 when Touch / Solace were released in the States? That may be why not too many women listened to her, but all knew about Jewel…? No idea…


      1. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) says:

        Here in the states she was a cult artist through those first two albums, and only started getting a bigger following with Fumbling… She didn’t become a superstar, though, until the Lillith Fair, by which time Jewel already had her big hits. Jann Arden is another Canadian singer that I discovered at that time, but she never broke through here. It’s a shame because she was on the same level as Sarah, in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. keepsmealive says:

          See? See? CULT ARTIST! I KNEW IT!! Hahaha sorry I had to say that, I know that’s not what you meant…

          Jann Arden is another awesome one, yup. Tons of great songs.


    2. keepsmealive says:

      I appreciate your comments, Rich! This is the only one I have, here. I’ve heard the hits off the other ones, of course, but the only other track of hers I have here is Building A Mystery, on an old CMJ compilation.

      “She’s not for everyone, but in the right mood she’s as good as it gets.” I totally get that.

      To me Jewel is another whole ball of wax. I can’t even really explain a difference, I just don’t put them in the same boat.


  2. Sarca says:

    Well, I’ve liked Sarah from the time Touch was released. I have it, and Solace, and moving forward to Surfacing, but I never had this album. I guess I was a fangirl? Actually, I love her voice in all its crackly glory. But, I did have a period in time when I had enough Sarah – the Lilith Fair period. I don’t know – her vibe changed for me. I’m back in her camp now but I haven’t bought any of her latest albums.
    Also, what’s not to like in the name SARAH, (and to be a little 1537 about it) spelled properly I might add! haha


    1. keepsmealive says:

      Nothing wrong with the name Sarah at all, just the way those ladies spoke it like she was some sort of god to them. It was seriously freaky and annoying.

      I wish McLachlan every success. I just won’t likely be listening too much, myself.


      1. Sarca says:

        Yes, I didn’t know any guys into McLachlan, honestly. It’s sort of like the “girls aren’t into RUSH phenomenon” I guess?
        I would never tell I guy, “You don’t understand, it’s a women thing” when it comes to Sarah.


        1. keepsmealive says:

          Haha yeah maybe, but that’s pretty general – I know both who like the other artist. It’s just that these women were real, um, nazis about it. It was scary.

          I appreciate you’d never say that to a guy. It was just a thing that made me think, you know. I know what Hold On is about, a woman’s husband dying of HIV, and I know that Possession is about a guy who was stalking her… So it got me thinking maybe I don’t understand a woman’s perspective, you know? I like to think I do! But who knows. I just think people are people, but maybe having different plumbing means I’ll never understand lady artists. Haha not. Probably. Oh dear.


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