Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cat Power is the stage name of singer and songwriter Chan (pronounced "Shawn") Marshall.
Cat Power's music has the distinctive quality of being very 'empty' or minimalist, sometimes classified as gothic blues. Her albums have been described as sad or depressing, and her voice praised as cathartic.
After dropping out of high school, Chan Marshall moved to New York City, where she was asked to open for Liz Phair. On the tour, she met Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Tim Foljahn of Two Dollar Guitar . The two men agreed to help her record music.
Her first album, Dear Sir , was recorded on the same day as her second album, Myra Lee . The two were released a year apart, however, and on different record labels. Marshall signed to Matador Records in 1996. Her debut for Matador, What Would the Community Think , was recorded and released the same year and spawned a rare single in "Nude As the News".
Her second album for Matador, 1998's Moon Pix , saw Chan move to Australia and record the album with Mick Turner and Jim White of The Dirty Three. During the tours that followed, Chan eventually grew tired of her own songs and started covering other artists' compositions. According to her, Matador had asked for a new record and because she had been "playing all these songs that I loved and loved and loved", she made the decision to record them instead of writing new songs. The results of various sessions in 1998 and 1999 were collected and released in 2000, simply entitled The Covers Record .
In 2003 she released the album You are Free, which featured musical support from Eddie Vedder, who offered a scarcely recognizable touch of his vocals on two tracks, and Dave Grohl, who played drums on a number of tracks. The album marked a musical transition in Marshall's career, bringing more rock music taste to her previous melodrama. Among other things, she has cited Gus Van Sant's Good Will Hunting as an influence on this latest record.
The Cat Power live experience has garnered a degree of notoriety for its chaotic lack of polish or structure. Songs are frequently cut short for no apparent reason, or tail off into what sounds like an extended bout of guitar tuning. Some sections of the audiences have become restless at the apparent lack of direction, while others have been enchanted by the free-form nature and honesty of the performances.
She is also notable both as an innovative interperator of other artists' songs and as an interviewee. In the first case she has taken an individualistic approach to cover versions, often ignoring key and hook lines from the lyrics, as evidenced on her versions of Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door" and Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" amongst others, or altering the mood of the song altogether as is the case with her version of Oasis' "Wonderwall". The music is similarly stripped down, often to little more than a electric guitar with a clean tone and her voice. It is hard to mistake a Cat Power cover song for that of any other artist
In the second case, Chan's interviews usually reveal her to be more than the self-loathing depressive loner stereotype that indie/alternative musicians are often labelled with. In fact she is quite the opposite and has often revealed herself to be outgoing and, as one British magazine put it, "a person all about people". She often gives abstract, cryptic answers to simple straight forward questions but at the same time comes across as very sincere and unpretentious. She is also very aware of her work, once commenting that "I know people want the rock but I can't give it to them" and that she wished she could make music more like "the Blues Explosion".
Most recently Chan has done advertisements for Gap clothing; guested on Handsome Boy Modeling School's album, White People; and released the much-anticipated live Cat Power DVD Speaking for Trees.
- Dear Sir (1995, Plain Records )
- Myra Lee (1996, Smells Like Records)
- What Would the Community Think (1996, Matador Records)
- Moon Pix (1998, Matador Records)
- The Covers Record (2000, Matador Records)
- You Are Free (2003, Matador Records)
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