“On Physiognomy and Performance”

I’m not sure what this means or who needs to hear this but this Adrianne Lenker person is looking at me like I raped her. Well, I mean, she is, and she isn’t. It’s only a picture. And I don’t feel like getting into the phenomenon here of “You look at the world like you look at yourself.” But it’s true.

Lenker is performing Bloomington, where I’m just sure I’m but a lowly trespasser, for whatever reason relating to some culture “woke” or “Me Too” law I’ve broken at some point in my life (or maybe they just assume that you’ve broken one of these laws). I have to admit, I’ve never listened to her music, and I don’t want to go on insulting her but I just can’t but point out what seems to be a sort of governing rule about the manifestation of art, or music performance, and physiognomy, which entails the identity or self-concept written on one’s face. Just today, I was marveling at the lyricism of Liz Phair. I was thinking of that song “Love is Nothing” where she says “Love is nothing nothing nothing / Like they say / You’ve gotta pick up the little pieces / Every day”. And I thought, it’s true. And just now that made me think of “Divorce Song,” which in general I find a little overrated but also to be a bona fide, unflinching look at troubled romance which can really be edifying and enriching for those trying to do it, or for any fan of music, like me or whomever. 

And she could be funny, too, like the playfulness of “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and “Johnny Sunshine.” And then I think of that album cover — she’s just throwing herself at the camera, in complete sexual abandon, and I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman but that can’t be coincidental. It’s like an element of generousness, or courage, accompanying what, like I said, is with her in general just a staggering skill set in lyrics, and one that’s completely broad, humanistic and genuine. On her next album, Whip-Smart, she looks complete, healthy and ready, not as if perceiving some danger or malady in the world but rather just facilitated in presenting her art to the world. On whitechocolatespaceegg, which is really an underrated album, she looks a little more damaged, I think, a little more hurt, and maybe this just comes with time. PJ Harvey wrote a whole album about heartbreak, Uh Huh Her, so maybe these things are inevitable, but it seems like with this Adrianne Lenker, if that this were the case, I would have heard of her by now. You can hide behind these phantom cultural pitfalls if you want but you sure as He** can’t pass them off as your own product.


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