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[whitespace] Sophie's Choice Complaints at P-ville

There's no love lost between Sophie B. Hawkins and Sony Records, as the singer is quick to explain in performance

By David Espinoza

SUNDAY NIGHT in a medium-sized college town during the summertime--certainly not the choicest night for a gig. Some musicians might step up to the challenge, bring in a sizable crowd and rock the house. Sophie B. Hawkins isn't one of those musicians. It's been almost 10 years since the New York native scored a hit with "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover," only to fade into oblivion, fodder for VH1 documentaries.

It was painfully clear just how bitter the major-record company business has left the 35-year-old singer/songwriter when she washed up on the stage of Palookaville last Sunday (July 15). Opening with "Mysteries We Understand," the third song off her 1992 major-label debut, Tongues and Tails, Hawkins made humorless jabs throughout the night at her current label, Sony, as well as at her backup musicians--anonymous studio fogies who hung back in the shadows and read sheet music.

Want the sad details? After asking the audience if a tree makes a sound when it falls in woods, she answered herself with "Not if it's Sony." Later, she admitted she barely knew the backup band and said she didn't really want to know what they do in their spare time. Such amateur stand-up bits might come across as good material for some artists (Chris Isaak comes to mind), but it was all too clear that Hawkins was letting off steam. The night might have been saved if she could have exhibited the same semisoulful and sexy persona that won folks over on Tongues and Tails, but it wasn't meant to be. Song after song, Hawkins gracelessly flailed about like a fish out of water, sang off-key and editorialized on lame subjects like the Ford Explorer "Reborn" ads being offensive since the SUVs have reportedly killed people. (It would have been a whole lot funnier to contrast the pseudo-environmentally friendly names these SUVs have, like Explorer or Exterra, when they should really be called Ecodestroyer, Land Crusher or Global Warmer).

The biggest problem Hawkins seems to have is not knowing where she wants to go musically. Her sound (which really isn't hers), a generic mix of one-calorie pop rock with elements of blues and folk, is suitable for a dentist office. To make matters worse, Hawkins drowns even her decent songs in melodramatic gesturing, presumably in an attempt to make them appear more profound than they really are. The end result is a highly contrived product that even Star Search might frown upon. P.S. As you might have guessed, I didn't stay for "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover."

Speaking of bands that can kick ass any day of the week, local heroes Good Riddance will hit P-ville July 29. ... Chicks playing AC/DC covers? Howard Stern would have a field day with this one. Hell's Belles is their name, and they play the Catalyst this Thursday, along with local industrial-metal connoisseurs Robot God.

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From the July 18-25, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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