Carole Pope: The return of the diva

| April 11, 2012
Landfall album cover

Carole Pope has long been the grande dame of the Canadian art rock scene. With Rough Trade, she and writing partner Kevan Staples ushered in a riotous mix of glam, glitter, unspeakably racy (for the time) onstage lesbian sexuality and a certain delicious sense of intellectual irony. Who else would have called their record albums Avoid Freud and For Those Who Jung/Young?

If we didn't have Pope daring to sing about her red-hot desire for women in High School Confidential, would the L Word have ever been made? Would Ellen DeGeneres be the queen of talk TV? There's no denying that the gay revolution was well underway and Pope wasn't the only trailblazer back then. But she was our all-Canadian lesbian bushwhacker and the undeniable power of gay pride she transmitted through her songs was transformative.

Now Pope has returned with Landfall, a highly eclectic recording that shows a more mature artist still completely in command of her considerable voice, lyrically as nimble as ever, but a great deal more versatile in terms of style.

Rough Trade had a certain sound that permeated most of their records, with Pope's snarling defiance belting out large dollops of sexual and psychological innuendo. Landfall is musically much more nuanced and varied than anything she did with Rough Trade.

One can hear the influence of Kurt Weill -- and indeed there is a significant European avant garde leitmotif running throughout the disc. However, Landfall also contains a couple of great guitar numbers (not derivative, but oddly reminiscent of Lucinda Williams) and Pope also brings in some gorgeous sting arrangements and a piano for the heartbreakingly beautiful title song, Landfall.

While Landfall most definitely doesn't dwell on the glory of the good old days, it is interesting to listen to Pope reflect on where she finds herself today.

Used to wear a coke spoon around your neck.
Used to take your rage out at a discotheque.
Life was so simple then.
But did I mention?
Did I forget to mention?
I will not go gently.

And Landfall doesn't go gently into familiar reunion tour territory, continuing to play the tried and true chestnuts. That approach would undoubtedly appeal to Pope's fans, but it wouldn't really attract any new ones either. This is a great record, and it most certainly deserves the opportunity. Give it a listen.

Cathi Bond is an author and national broadcaster, currently working on Night Town, a novel and screenplay that takes place on the very different streets of downtown Toronto during the 1970s.

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