Funny Cry Happy Gift
By: Eric G.
Children of famous people are typically doomed from the start, so I guess Tiffany Anders is lucky that her mother, director Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Sugartown), is still only modestly recognizable on the Hollywood fringe. She does, however, have the added luxury of a few famous friends playing on her debut full-length. PJ Harvey not only produces Funny Cry Happy Gift but also sings, plays guitar, bass, and organ on it, and J Mascis plays drums. Not bad for a debut, huh? The question is whether Anders has the goods to justify such an all-star team lending her a helping hand, or if she's just cashing in all her privileged (?) connections at once.
Anders has a girlish but sad voice that she drapes in layers around her simple, folksy rock. To say she's a fan of double-tracking vocals is a bit of an understatement. Not only do we have several tracks of Anders' croon but you can also hear PJ Harvey wailing in the background if you listen closely. Anders' songs are dark and emotional without obvious hooks or catchy riffs. The setup is pretty sparse too. Acoustic guitars, drum brushes, stray sound effects and stone-simple bass lines serve as the landscape for Anders' slow, lonesome blues. It's typical singer-songwriter stuff laced with a deliberately dispiriting aura. Nothing much sets it apart from countless introspective female artists other than its underground rock pedigree.
Anders apparently has little interest in building her songs into climactic emotional fits; instead she's content just to wallow in her own brand of drab melancholia. Her pleading strain borders on being whiney, but she has enough of an inflection to keep your fingers from curling. She plays up the lost little girl role not only with her lightly affected cadence but also with her isolated, woe-is-me lyrics: "my heart falls back on the downward beat/I wear solitude's ring/it stays with me." For the most part, she manages to keep the trappings of clichés at bay despite the familiar subjects she pours over like a high-school outcast.
I'm trying to think of a few situations where listening to this album might be advisable, but I'm having some trouble given its 'fall asleep at the wheel' factor. So the car is out, obviously. A party would be a bad choice also, unless you wanted to bring everybody down. Way down. Wearing headphones at work probably isn't a good idea either- again the sleep factor. Hmm. How about alone in your room with some candles burning on a cold rainy night? Just kidding. If your beats-per-minute limit is above thirty, then this is not an album for you (even if it is J Mascis playing in slow motion). However, if you are a New York City hipster, where kaffeeklatsch-type emotions make you waddle, then Funny Cry Happy Gift is your soundtrack.