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All You Can Eat  Hear it Now

RS: 3of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 5of 5 Stars

2002

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This is the true successor to k.d. lang's 1992 breakthrough, Ingénue. Near the start of All You Can Eat, she croons, "I could be anything if I were you." It's meant to be foolish, the kind of sentiment we try to leave behind in childhood but secretly surrender to during those weak, not-so-adult moments. And yet there's a point being made: lang wants to keep moving and leave behind the woman we thought we knew.

All You Can Eat builds upon lang's ill-fated soundtrack to Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. The experimental vibe of that side project is explored, refined and nearly perfected here. Working with her long-time songwriting collaborator, co-producer and guitarist Ben Mink, lang strips down her music. She has pushed the rhythm section to the front and taken in the influence of alternative pop rockers, creating a dreamlike contemplation on the nature of love. This may not be the lang record you were expecting, but it could be one you'll grow to adore.

Like PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love, the latest from the favorite daughter of Consort, Alberta, offers 10 concise, thematically related cuts. It's designed to get under your skin long enough to demand the repeated plays that bring a hazy concept into focus. All You Can Eat tells the story of an unfolding romance from childish infatuation ("If I Were You") to total surrender ("I Want It All"). Along the way, lang undergoes many moods – contemplation ("Maybe"), insecurity ("You're OK"), lust ("Sexuality"), even profound spirituality ("Infinite and Unforeseen"). Her lyrics take on a newfound directness: Whereas her country-shaded work of the '80s relied on stylistic archetypes, these songs speak straight from lang's queer heart. At least one of her new love songs frankly addresses a woman.

More startling is the music. The rhythms and sonic textures draw from the vintage soul of Al Green, while the stark arrangements and lush melodies embrace the primal sophistication of trend-bucking college-radio faves like Björk and Harvey without evoking either. By holding back on vocal volume and letting her creativity loose, Kathryn Dawn ultimately expresses much more. Traditional torch and twang gave her something to master and rebel against, but sublimely sensual art pop has set lang free. (RS 721)


BARRY WALTERS





(Posted: Nov 16, 1995)

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