Barely Scantily Clad

Naked
Brownie Mary

By Whitney Hardin

Okay, I admit it, I was wrong. I took one look at the cover to Brownie Mary's Naked, shrugged and put it in the back of my mind. I read through the lyrics the next day and thought to myself, "Here's a waste of my time."

That was over a month ago. I've been listening to this CD at least once a day since then, and I still don't know quite what to make of it except that I was wrong. This album, to quote the band itself is, "not perfect, but wonderful enough."

The best way to describe Naked would be "distracting." I tried to listen to it for the first time while straightening up my bedroom and found myself sitting on my bed, doing nothing but listening, analyzing and generally being mesmerized by this band. As first impressions go, "Like I Really Do," the first track, excellently presents the band and what the album is all about. The beat is clean and straight-forward, the starts and stops tight and the transitions seamless. These admirable traits continue on throughout the album.

Brownie Mary is lucky enough to have a talented guitarist who knows when to back off, and an aggressive bassist who steps in willingly when he's given an opening. All musicians get equal time, playing more like a single entity than individuals taking turns. The simple solos are effective and surprising; they appear when you don't quite expect them and feature more talent than posturing. Brownie Mary's female singer has a wonderful voice with just enough rasp, honeyed and smoky by turns, while clear enough to articulate every syllable. Her seductive vocals are addictive and carry emotions easily.

The title track, "Naked," is the second song on the CD. It's funky intro flows seamlessly into a melodic song as full as changes as the previous one. However, the lyrics, "It doesn't matter if I live or die once you've seen me naked," would seem to indicate that the band knows they're holding something back from their listeners.

Overall, the album is a riot of sound sources and musical branches, from swing and punk to lounge and country; "Say You Want Me" starts with a bagpipe solo that effortlessly manages not to sound out of place. Nearly all the songs deal with themes like popularity, relationships, love, acceptance and self-confidence, all keeping pace with the oscillating musical themes. Brownie Mary apparently wants to touch all bases and please all listeners, but anyone who isn't a fan of many different types of music won't really be able to appreciate the finished product.

Some of the better songs are "Butterfly" (and I never thought I would find myself taking a song with a title like that seriously...), "I'll Be The One" (easily the most upbeat and motivating song on the CD, as well as the only one which doesn't convey some anxiety about how the world will receive the singer. It isn't the live song you're thinking it is.); "Stop Me" (a little too mainstream for me, but overall a good song, and the lyrics "stop me if you've heard this one" imply that they know just how stereotypical the song is) and "Silver" (I just liked this one, predominantly because the music tones it down and the singer shines through.).

On the other hand, some of the songs were just flat disappointing. "Blind Obsession," the eighth track, was a letdown after the first seven songs. The same goes for "Great" and "Memphis," both of which sounded like something you might hear on a cruise. They are in the lounge style, and "Memphis" mentions the X-Files and Elvis, bringing to mind Paul Simon's "Graceland." They weren't bad songs, merely not on the same level as the first half of the album It started to sound as if the band had pulled all the rabbits they could think of out of their hats.

During "Lessons," the tenth song, the band suddenly remembered they had a distortion pedal and made use of it. It vanished soon afterwards, never to reemerge. While it is obvious that this band possesses great talent and extensive knowledge of the mechanics of music, it is also obvious that one person is responsible for writing all the songs and that trying to attain equal proficiency in all musical fields hurts the overall effect of the album. As their title song says, Brownie Mary seems afraid of showing what they can really do - and really want to do - for fear of rejection or something equally unfounded and choose to remain hidden behind a collage of musical garments. With every song the same length, in the same style and with similar themes, the lyric sheet reads like a book of sonnets.

Every endeavor fits a predetermined set of rules, and that makes this album monotonous at times. Still other songs are crowded, as if a much longer and more complex song had been paraphrased down for the sake of time, and this condensation makes them overwhelming. Brownie Mary supposedly has two other albums (That's Me and Who's Your Daddy), which I was unable to find, but I would love to hear them in the hopes that these albums are more individualistic and less concerned with selling well. I'd also love to see this group in concert, because the energy that goes into the majority of the songs on the album must be wonderful to behold live. Overall, the album is worth a listen, and I hope to see more of their work in the future, hopefully featuring a little more nakedness.