Jean Caffeine Idée Fixe (Joe)
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., June 30, 2000
Idée Fixe (Joe)Somewhere between Shawn Colvin's saltier side and Patti Smith with a sense of humor, Jean Caffeine has found herself a place on the bench. Her credentials shouldn't have to be trotted out, though it never hurts to point out that her days as a drummer in New York armed her with an edge that manifests itself in subversive ways. Caffeine's recovered nicely from the excellent turning-40 angst of her last recording, Knocked Down Seven Times, Got Up Eight, and comes back swinging with passionate words and images on Idée Fixe. One of her tricks is benign-sounding melodies that sucker-punch lyrically, as on "Hand of Country," "Getting Directions," and the opening track, "It's Not Nice Without You (When You're Around)." She minces no words on what passes for the title track "Want It Want It (Idée Fixe)" or the acerbic "I'm Not Your Girlfriend," digging deeply into a scarred psyche for "Kiss My Wound" ("I read about children who couldn't be consoled by their mothers' arms and I felt like one of those children"). Even with such compelling lyrics at hand, Caffeine is at her best when she slams home her sentiments, as on "Firewall" and "Word Junkie." Even better is her warm embrace of Jon Dee Graham's glorious "Big Sweet Life," especially when pitted against her Marianne Faithfullesque rendition of the elegant "Guilt." Faithfull and Graham -- now there are two disparate influences to toss at the Colvin/Smith reference mix. And just enough of a puzzle to recommend Jean Caffeine and Idée Fixe.