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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.

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