The Art of Removing Wallpaper
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2004, Volume 11, #9
Written by John Metzger
In the eight years that have passed since she released her debut Two Dollar Shoes, Terri Hendrix has evolved from a coffeehouse act into a songwriter with an avid following, having achieved remarkable success for an independent artist with her 2002 effort The Ring. Despite her accomplishments, the problem that has plagued Hendrix throughout her career, however, has been an inability to distinguish herself from the plethora of other dime-a-dozen, acoustic guitar wielding, female performers mining similar territory, and this conundrum continues, at least in part, on her latest effort The Art of Removing Wallpaper.
Wrapping her roots-oriented, pop songs in tasteful, Americana-infused arrangements, Hendrix is quite good at churning out melodies that are pleasing to hear, but the consequence is that they frequently take the sting out of her lyrics. On One Way, the resignation that a love affair isnít going to work is shaped by music that floats dreamily along with a strangely spirited effervescence, while Breakdownís tale of covering up oneís emotions does nothing to reveal the pain and sorrow hidden beneath the surface of her steely facade. Perhaps this juxtaposition of concepts is entirely the point, but in truth, it still lends little gravity to the words that she sings. Although itís all a notch above the typical, chart-topping fare coming out of Nashville these days, itís also only a small step forward, at best, simply because it strives too much for commercial exposure at the expense of true resonance.
On the other hand, The Art of Removing Wallpaper does find Hendrix beginning to make a few strides towards carving out a niche for herself in which to explore deeper wounds and greater injustices with some distinction from her peers, although itís not so much the content of her songs as it is the power of her performances that captivates. With a pair of biting social commentaries (Judgment Day and Monopoly), Hendrix lashes out at both compassionate conservatism and media consolidation, and in tackling LL Cool Jís I Need Love, she finds a vulnerable space within an otherwise blustery rap tune, even if it isnít an entirely successful rendition. Itís on these tracks that she emphatically conveys what she is feeling, and consequently, she sounds supremely invested in her material. That, of course, can make all the difference in the world between a good outing and a mediocre one. Itís just too bad that her passion is fleeting.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box