one of us could describe what it feels like to have our heart broken.
What goes through our minds when we accidentally put our hand to
the hot stove. We could communicate without words a thousand different
thoughts about feeling the wind through our hair during sunset at
the beach. Human beings relate through similarities, and we have
many, many similarities. This could be defined as empathy, warmth,
and compassion – the greatest miracle that humanity has known.
Not all of us are in touch with this element
of humanity as much as Chan Marshall. She has refined this tool
in the form of her music, named Cat Power. There are an infinite
number of things we can choose to say to each other and innumerable
actions we can choose to take every day of our lives. But how many
of us feel compelled to express ourselves sensitively with the intention
of connecting to another? There is a motivation in Chan’s
communication that is truly treasured, difficult, and beautiful.
She tells stories in her songs that not everyone has the bravery
or intimacy to share.
We all have stories we could tell. All of
our stories are important to us, but some have a better chance of
being heard. To be recognized as important takes an introduction
understood as genuine, and good looks don’t hurt either. ‘You
are free’ (matador) leads in with a song called ‘I don’t
blame you,’ a bright, melodic anthem of appreciation and reflective
forgiveness that possibly she wrote to herself. You remember the
svelte image of her with sparkling eyes covered by dark, long hair,
simply gorgeous without effort.
My friend Claire shared with me a revealing
story about her experience at a recent Cat Power show in Pittsburgh.
Claire met Chan after the show and told Chan that Cat Power’s
latest album You
are Free has become her break-up album (check
out track 3, ‘Good Woman,’ I dare you not to get emotional)
and that she loves these songs for getting her through some difficult
times. Chan thanked Claire, asked her name and if her parents named
her after Molly Ringwald’s character in ‘The Breakfast
Club.’ Claire laughed but said that she was born after the
movie was released. Chan smiled, perhaps embarrassed of making the
comment after having drank so much bourbon onstage, and said she
was ‘going to do a trick.’ Chan quickly spun herself
around in a circle and darted away into the crowd.
We constantly repeat cycles of getting close and pulling away, sharing
how we feel and then being painfully silent. In essence, the fragile
subtlety of human closeness is as enigmatic and intense as a Cat
Power song. We’re on the edge of a self-expressed explosion
(‘I never meant to be the needle that broke your back’)
and a second later retreat back into the nameless, rowdy party crowd
like an embarrassed, cowering cat (‘a direct hit of the senses,
your disconnected’ – or is it you ARE disconnected?).
If you’re alone and in a contemplative
mood, preferably with headphones on, or in your home or in the car,
listening to ‘You are free’ is the closest you can be
present to the abstract dynamics of human relatedness. Trembling,
whimpering, yelling, you grow more disillusioned and amazed. You’re
never quite sure if this is the greatest love you’ll ever
feel, because you’re afraid your partner might turn away and
break your heart.
There’s always a risk of expressing
love, because it may be unrequited. There’s a fear about cracking
a joke that no one may laugh. There’s also the chance that
writing and performing a song, that no one will listen and no one
will care. If you have the patience to love, laugh, and listen,
then this album will cuddle up to your soul and purr next to your
heart. You’ll experience the magic of being alive. X
Marisha Noel Chinsky is
a music publicist, musician, and artist living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
In addition to the essay on Cat Power's You Are Free, Marisha
has contributed to some music reviews in the music
review section. Marisha can be contacted at email@example.com