Cat Power

Record review

Phases & Stages

Cat Power

The Greatest (Matador)

Discographies are measured in arcs, but musicians ride seesaws. Relentless creativity likes to counter that which came immediately before, and since Cat Power's previous You Are Free unleashed another gut-wrenching career high, The Greatest boasts a more playful mood. Critically, album No. 7 is destined to disappoint, but then Cat people will still find plenty to purr about. Though the lyrics are light ("Could We") and often banal ("The Moon"), the warm, Mazzy Star minimalism and neon-roots groove are fairly irresistible. Recorded in Memphis with Al Green's rhythmic backbone, Mabon and Leroy Hodges, The Greatest is a groover and a grower, a neighborhood bar in a nowhere town where the jukebox only plays half-hearted regrets buoyed by boozy goodwill. LP principal and title track, draped in piano and strings, sways lazily like "After It All," with its narcotic piano, whistled hook, and 1920s blear. The plush, speakeasy "Lived in Bars" hooks up with the Johnette Napolitano-like dirge "Hate." Plenty's lost to the haze ("Where Is My Love," "Islands"), while Western "Willie" dissipates with an unengaged arrangement. Capper "Love & Communication" flickers "in some dark movie. Can you memorize the scenes? They'll be different next week." Count on it.

**

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