Lisa Germano – No Elephants (review)

Lisa Germano – No Elephants (Badman Records) review

How about something off the beaten path?

The music business is in an unprecedented rut.  We’ve been without a bona fide new trend in music for over a decade.  Which is why, when something comes along like No Elephants, the new album from Lisa Germano, it’s just a breath of badly-needed fresh air.

At first listen, the album might seem completely foreign to you.  A million miles removed from the heartland rock she played as violinist in John Mellencamp’s band, here she focuses mostly on piano and her lilting voice.  These new tracks seem, at times, so fragile, they might crack just from you hearing them.

Germano has assembled a soundscape of polarizing elements – hums, buzzes and beeps of cellphones and other electronic devices, which have become all too a part of our everyday life, are intermingled, quite jarringly, with the sounds of bees and other animals.  This might seem completely out of whack, yet Germano and producer Jamie Candiloro weave these sounds in a manner that’s oddly percussive.

It’s no accident that cellphone noises weave in and out of “Dance of the Bees” – the very technology that could be providing their extinction.  She decries the horrendous treatment of animals for food on “Ruminants.”  Yet, none of it comes off as preachy – it’s more like “hey, have you thought about this”?

Of course, our over-reliance on personal electronics is a recurring theme of No Elephants, with the buzzes and beeps creeping up in several songs.  No truer phrase sums up our current predicament better than “all plugged in / and tuned out” on the album’s title track.

Don’t worry if all of this doesn’t connect with you at first.  In order to fully enjoy the record, you really need to sit down with it and listen to it all the way through (y’know, like in the old days).  Don’t worry, the album is short, about 35 minutes long.  Once you do that, you recognize melodies that recur from song to song, and sound effects that fade in and out in a thematic soundscape.

Germano’s music certainly isn’t for everyone. But, on No Elephants, she’s created something truly unique, that manages to be both bizarre and beautiful at the same time.  –Tony Peters