Alice in No Man's Land
(RCA Victor/Sony BMG)
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2008, Volume 15, #9
Written by John Metzger
Tue September 2, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Opinions regarding Mandi Perkinsí major-label debut Alice in No Manís Land are likely to be split right down the middle. Music fans who thrive on angst-filled melodrama and pumped-up arena-ready choruses will love the endeavor. Anyone who happens to be looking for something a little more subtle, however, will find the outing to be so relentless that it quickly becomes tedious and tiresome.
Throughout Alice in No Manís Land, Perkinsí influences are obvious. Drawing a line that connects Pat Benatar, Alanis Morissette, and Avril Lavigne, she unleashes her frustration over relationships that failed to flourish as well as the flaws in her own personality. In fact, each of the albumís first 12 tracks examines the pain in her heart and the blackness of her soul from a different angle. Taken in full, all of it acts as an exorcism of sorts that eventually brings some much needed relief ó at least to her ó on This Is Really the End, the collectionís final cut.
In effect, Alice in No Manís Land is a concept album that addresses what it feels like to be lost in the wilderness and be forced to find the way back home through a process of reflection and self-discovery. In putting together such a focused set of material, Perkins has demonstrated that she possesses more maturity than many of the performers who are operating within the same mold. When she actually gives herself a chance to sing ó as opposed to shouting over a bed of churning guitars and crashing drums ó Perkins often sounds like Natalie Merchant, with, perhaps, a touch or two of Joni Mitchell and Carole King peeking around the corner.
Nevertheless, although Perkins clearly has the brains and the talent to rise above the pack, she frustratingly aims her music at the lowest common denominator in the crowd. Despite the piano interludes and softer touches that are scattered throughout Alice in No Manís Land, she never is able to resist turning each of her songs into a generic, overwrought anthem. Consequently, she undermines her strengths by removing the dimensionality from her work. Itís hard not to admire Perkins for taking a stance and sticking with it, but as Alice in No Manís Land progresses, its sonic assault simply becomes too oppressive to bear.
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box