As always with Lisa Germano, the questions start early. How does a sultry former violinist for (cough) John Mellencamp have the capacity to reach such icy depths? Which part of Narnia were the vocals recorded in? And what, exactly, is Johnny Marr doing here?
Opener “Nobody's Playing” finds us washed ashore on a Gothic desert island where the natives are hostile and the plotline is written by Edgar Allen Poe. “Circles and circles/ Places to drown/ All that you feel is that you're going down” she intones over undulating piano, clearly far from home.
The puzzles continue with “Paper Doll.” When she murmurs, “You can always play with me” over and over, the message is indistinct: is she wooing a prospective lover, or submitting to their will? Are we in a fantasy or a nightmare?
If the claustrophobic rattle of “Lullaby” suggest the latter, the mesmeric “Pearls” makes Germano's state of mind clear: “Hate will grow/ With your alcohol glow/ Get used to the show,” she sighs. Bleak stuff, unquestionably, yet Germano instills these tales of everyday madness with a passion to match any of the opiated works on the shelves of Book Soup, the cult Hollywood bookstore where she used to work.
Fortunately, her way with a tune makes such inquiries irrelevant. She's abetted by the presence of both Neil Finn and Marr — on Optigan and guitar respectively — but the psychedelic trip-hop of “Candy” suggests she needn't spend her entire life being compared to a suicidal Liz Phair. “From a Shell” is something else again, a woozy underwater classic sure to light up the charts in Atlantis. “It's Party Time" sees her don a grass skirt for a burst of Dayglo sunset pop. Yet in Germano's world there's always a hangover to face, and never a trace of a Hollywood ending.
“Close your eyes/ Not a pretty sight/ And you know what?/ It's not gonna be all right,” she groans in "Into the Light." Harrowing transmissions from a ghostly radio station in a parallel universe? Or a songwriter of depth and knowledge, straining for a plain beyond commerciality? Lullaby For Liquid Pig leaves us guessing until the end. The singer once joked the album should have been called Alcoholics Anonymous. Listen close to Germano sigh these tales of madness and you can almost smell the booze on her breath.