Mon. Mar 4th, 2024

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Album Review: Kate Pierson – Guitars and Microphones

3 min read

You can’t fault Kate Pierson for trying. The B-52’s singer and multi-instrumentalist gives a lot of herself on her debut solo album, Guitars and Microphones; one could never accuse her of turning in a lazy record. But despite the passion and talent on display, the album ultimately feels crushingly mediocre. There is stuff to like here, but nothing to love.

Kate Pierson - Guitars and MicrophonesAlbum opener Throw Down The Roses begins the proceedings on a high note. Pierson’s voice is as impressive as it has ever been, and the song’s insistent, poppy melody scores high marks. But from that point on, things become increasingly familiar, and a reliance on musical clichés sours the experience. Despite the lofty sentiments of its lyrics, Mister Sister, a self-described “trans anthem”, never grabs the listener the way it should, and even at just over three minutes feels overlong.

Title track Guitars and Microphones is almost twee to the extreme. Whereas Pierson’s work with The B-52’s beautifully walked the line between wide eyed innocence and kitsch tongue in cheek grit (Exhibit A: the painfully unappreciated Mesopotamia) here, the music leans too far towards the former.

Songs like Crush Me With Your Love and Bottoms Up succeed on some levels – the latter in particular has a catchy chorus, and a nice upbeat, boppy tone – but they’re far from memorable, and their effect barely lingers. Similarly, Bring Your Arms is almost color-by-numbers predictable, and stands as the album’s real low point. There’s nothing in the song to make it stand apart from the deluge of upbeat indie pop that has saturated the airwaves for some time now. Even the smallest dash of unpredictability would have saved the song, but as it stands, this is the kind of fodder that would feel most at home played over an advertisement for a supermarket chain.

From there on its another wave of good, but far from great, upbeat pop tunes; Wolves is a lighter waving anthem that’s nice, but slight; Matrix is forgettable, insistent fare; and Time Wave Zero, despite its interesting lyrical content and Pierson’s singularly impressive vocals, never stacks up the way it should.

Despite it all, album closer Pulls You Under manages to inject some nice life into the proceedings; it’s a good song to close on, and hints at the great record Guitars and Microphones could have been. Almost baroque in its intensity, it is at once beautiful, and deliriously kitsch. It’s the album’s best foot forward, which is why it’s such a shame it’s presented instead as a last gasp.

All in all, there is nothing remotely bad about Guitars and Microphones; it’s certainly far from a stain on Pierson’s impressive musical career. It’s just never even close to being as impressive as it should be. It’s more of a curio than anything else, the kind of record that will be bought up by B-52’s fans, but will largely go unnoticed by the larger musical community.