Cat Power

By MATT ASHARE  |  February 16, 2006
2.5 2.5 Stars
CAT POWER comes out of her indie-rock shell with a backing band of Memphis ringersIt may be her own fault, but Chan Marshall can’t seem to win for losing. In a decade as Cat Power, with the aid of Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and his downtown NYC buddies, this quiet Southern girl’s been plugging away in the big city at the kind of broken-souled, sparely arranged, introspective pop just catchy and pretty enough to keep a cult of fans infatuated and more than skewed enough to ensure it wouldn’t go beyond that. With The Greatest, she comes out of her indie-rock shell and, with a backing band of Memphis ringers who’ve sessioned with everyone from Al Green to Booker T., adds orchestral strings, grand piano arpeggios, tasteful hooks, full-bodied vocals, and even — gasp! — a sexy bit of groove. Exactly the sort of thing that would appeal to, say, a Fiona Apple fan. Chan’s MO hasn’t changed that much: she’s still the tragic poet, full of sorrow, longing, and ennui. And in spite of a few Southern soul and R&B touches, a swinging beat here and a little Delta slide guitar there, she remains at heart a preciously torchy indie popstress. But with its warmer, more welcoming production, The Greatest is poised to reach a much wider audience. It’s the Cat Power album most likely to grow on you even as diehard fans recoil in horror.
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