fun, power-pop

Only Everything (Atlantic/Mammoth)
Juliana Hatfield

By Mark Clark

Only Everything is more enjoyable than a Juliana Hatfield album has a right to be. Working with a bassist and drummer in an old-fashioned power trio, Hatfield blends her usual catchy melodies with an unusually muscular guitar attack and crafts the most satisfying record of her career.

"Universal Heart-Beat," the chipper lead single, is indicative of what the album offers. It's a bouncy little pop tune with buzz-saw guitar churning under its infectious chorus: "A heart that hurts is a heart, a heart that works." In passing, it sounds a little like a Sheryl Crow song, only good.

Julianna Hatfield

Most other tracks on the album work from the same recipe, but combine the ingredients in different concentrations: some a little heavier on the metal, others more bubble gum. And then there's "Dumb Fun," which vacillates between both extremes at once, like a Josie and the Pussycats tune with a chorus by Black Sabbath. Very nice. Give that woman a Scooby Snack.

The album is less interesting when Hatfield abandons this approach and reverts to either straight ballads or, worse, all-out rockers. Some of the ballads work. The melancholy "Live on Tomorrow" is sweet but insubstantial. Heavier tracks like "Fleur de Lys" only prove that Hatfield can't afford to forget that her forte is power pop, not power power. "Fleur de Lys," by the way, is sung in French, an annoying, pretentious touch.

Thematically, Only Everything is reaffirming, upbeat. Most of the lyrics espouse the idea that surviving a crisis (of whatever type) charges you with renewed lust for life, and enriched survival skills. Some of the lyrics are downright harrowing. "Lock me in a basement, with nothing to eat/You can hurt my body but you cannot hurt me," she sings in "Live on Tomorrow." At times, Only Everything recalls Hole's Live Through This, only with a happy ending. And with a lot wimp-ier guitar.

Only Everything isn't a great record, but it's a fun one most of the time. That's about the most anybody could ask from Hatfield.