Waxahatchee: Nineties nostalgia we could do without

Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt is the kind of whining indieness that should be confined to the dustbin of pop history.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Culture

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Until recently, the 1990s was a decade we all wanted to forget. The music, the clothes, the hair – the horror(!), right?

But go to where the trendy things are nowadays and you’ll hear grunge and trip-hop blasting out of club sound-systems; note cinematic revivals of Clueless; and even spot the odd centre-parting atop a dungaree-clad patron.

This was bound to happen. The cycle of nostalgia that has come to set the pop culture agenda was spoiling for new(ish) material to plunder, and who could deny the Nineties child a bit of reminiscence? All the same, there’s still one relic of the decade so reprehensible, so noxious, it should have remained buried alongside Dawson’s Creek: the alternative singer-songwriter.

Alas, Cerulean Salt, the second LP from Philadelphian songstress Katie Crutchfield under her Waxahatchee moniker, has become the hipsterverse’s new flavour of the month, on the strength of songs infused with the same drippy lyricism and lackadaisical musicianship that launched a thousand dreadful 4-track demos back in the day.

The 13 songs paint a portrait of a delicate soul, callused by hometown humdrum and mutually abusive relationships. In the mould of a Liz Phair or a Will Oldham, she’s a cynical husk, looking down her nose at those who dare have a crack at commitment: ‘Make up sits on your face like tar’, she sneers, recounting a friend’s wedding on ‘Dixie Cups’ over a suitably whiny riff.

Whereas her 2012 debut, American Weekend, had a charm and tenderness that eked out of its lo-fi squall, here the clean production lays the songs’ inadequacies bare. Three-chord teenage angst is adorned by lyrics that, when they’re not mixing metaphors, merely collapse into verbose obfuscation. ‘With this drink I’ll swallow the intangible I can’t illustrate’, on the lilting ‘Lips and Limbs’, is but one of many faux-deep howlers.

There are a few decent tunes. ‘Coast to Coast’, channelling Heatmiser’s less dour moments, comes as a sunny-eyed, mid-record reprieve from the manifest gloom. Meanwhile ‘Lively’ is a slyly devastating ode to a druggy lover. These exceptions aside, though, Cerulean Salt is a self-indulgent dirge – a trip, and a fall, down pop memory lane.

Tom Slater is culture editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_ Read his blog:

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Topics Culture


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