interviews, reviews & articles

 

Said

2014 Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels calls Odele’s Bath “a masterpiece of story and manifesto, a lesson in life.” – Said the Gramophone (named one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2009 by Time Magazine)

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Magnet Magazine (print edition) two page spread, photo by Sean Raggett

“…instead of celebrating or castigating evil, Smith traces how the absence of empathy manifests as something that looks very much like it: narcissism.”  Bill Meyer, Magnet Magazine (USA)

Mecca Normal in Magnet page 1 NEW

Mecca Normal in Magnet page 2 new
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Mecca Normal interview and performance on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman

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“… the songs speak to understanding the inherent nature of frayed humanity.”  Eric Risch, PopMatters (USA

“…Smith’s characters deal with the inequality and power imbalances that mark modern society.”  Colin Joyce, Pitchfork (USA)

“Turning long, thick passages of prose into singable, memorable songs, Mecca Normal have revolutionized their music again. If you think you’ve already heard everything this band is capable of, you need to hear Empathy For The Evil and find out just how wrong you are. After a long-delayed release, you will finally get a chance. Do not miss this one.” – J Neo Marvin, Ear Candle Productions (San Francisco)

“For the thoughtful listener who appreciates both a good work of fiction and a nice dose of indie folk ‘Empathy for the Evil’ is the record for you.” – Mark Anthony Brennan, Ride the Tempo (Canada) rated 4 out of 5 stars

“… Smith’s words are full of wisdom and humour and cut right through the materialism of the world of rock.” – Tucker Petertil, The Big Takeover (New York)

“Duo Jean Smith and David Lester have been making raw, stripped-down garage rock since the mid 1980s. It’s rare to have this much power and emotion come from one guitarist and one singer. They always keep it real.” – Dawn Jewell, NPR-affiliate WOUB (Athens, Ohio), Top Albums of 2014

“The songs on Empathy are mesmerizing, with Smith sucking you with her trance-like vocals and poetic lyrics backed by Lester’s equally as spellbinding guitar riffs.”  Steve Long, Red Dirt Report (Oklahoma)

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“The name Mecca Normal may not be immediately recognizable to many young agitators, but the influence of the Vancouver-based indie-punk band – celebrating their 30th year of existence with their latest album, Empathy for the Evil – runs deep in the blood of modern-day feminists, riot grrrls and art punks.

Bandmates Jean Smith and David Lester were writing songs about gender, society, inequality and politics long before Kathleen Hanna implored the girls at the back to move towards the front of the pit. The duo now add graphic novels, visual art and fiction to their resumes, but their work as songwriters remains as candid and revolutionary as ever. Lester’s angular guitar lines and Smith’s strong, high voice, going from folky croon to raging recitative, convey the urgency of their lyrics plainly.” – Alison Lang, Editor, Broken Pencil Magazine (Canada)

“It’s not really important that Mecca Normal has hung around for thirty years, what is important is that they’ve weathered the constant assaults on a disabled industry, and the destructive powers of time, which can eat away at your passion and your partnership. You put on Empathy for the Evil, and it’s like your listening to Mecca Normal at the height of the Riot Grrrl movement, when the Northwest was the center of the music world, when people appreciated the ingenuity and the artistry of artists like Jean Smith and David Lester.”  Brian Snider, Secretly-Important (Seattle)

“Art is the Great Leveler, is a beautiful tale weaving Smith’s love for art and relationships, how art can bring two people together.”  Troy Michael, Innocent Words (Chicago)

“Mecca Normal is not a normal band. They’re free of clichés, unconcerned with catchy pop hooks or mass appeal. They have made some art, and they’d like you to enjoy it on their terms. It’s refreshing, and I’m digging it.”  Abe Beeson, Nado Mucho (Pacific Northwest)

“If you’re interested in an adrenalin experience which features angst rock themes that challenge the slow flow of our society, look no further.”  Eden Gillespie, Happy (Australia)

“Their sound is now and ever shall be weird, unhip, oddly alluring and precise.”  Patrick Rapa , Philly City Paper

“Empathy For The Evil is as pure an expression of conscious, intelligent rock music as you’re likely to hear, with every track, from Art Was The Great Leveller to Odele’s Bath, providing food for mind and soul alike.”  The Crack Magazine (UK)

“The uncompromising art of Mecca Normal has been one of the more inspiring stories of the last 30 years.”  Bob Ham, The Weekly Spin (Portland)

“It’s interesting to hear a group from THEN — the ’80s—continuing to play into the NOW. Like, Mecca Normal have been together for 30 years, and in context with contemporary “indie” groups, they sound like fucking GIANTS! Their maturity and immediacy screams in the face of contemporary “indie,” which, as it became pop music, has become parody. Mecca Normal never conceded to pop-radio aims, they just kept growing their own.”  Mike Nipper, The Stranger (Seattle)

“I had never seen Mecca Normal perform live before, and I was totally thrilled and blown away. They mostly performed songs from their new record Empathy for the Evil, which is fantastic…”  This is Fag City (New York)

“This is a thoughtful, moving, and reflective album completely out of step with anything in commercial music which is, of course, a good thing.”  Allan MacInnis, Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

“A fascinating piece, minimalist and upsetting. This new album is beautiful.”  K-Fuel, webzine (France)

“Moved inside for Mecca Normal. What can you say? Listening to Jean intone a phrase like “Art Was the Great Leveler” (1st song on the new album, Empathy for the Evil) while David whacks the elasticity out of what always sound like brand-new strings has been one of the consistent pleasures of my music-going life.”  Franklin Bruno, live review of a show at Troost, New York City

“Mecca Normal has been speaking truth to power since 1984. By day Mecca Normal is mild-mannered writer Jean Smith and graphic artist David Lester, by night the duo wield voice and guitar as weapons of mass provocation, spreading their message of change and social justice far and wide.”  Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun

“Mecca Normal’s Empathy for the Evil is thoughtful, moving, and reflective” The Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

“They remain in fine form on the provocatively entitled new album Empathy for the Evil, again mixing the personal and political.”  Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music

“Their insistence that a punk group could be made up of just two people following their own rules — no bass player, quiet guitar/loud vocals, storytelling as a performance art — challenged the prevailing definitions of “punk,” re-enforcing an alternate, more radical definition rooted in the DIY ethic.” — interview with Tobi Vail Wondering Sound (New York)

“The new album’s guitar- and organ-driven single ‘Wasn’t Said’ offers an introspective introduction to their lyrically focused and poignant rock realism. Their set should be a charmingly unhinged, rare treat. Recommended.”  by Brittnie Fuller, The Stranger (Seattle)

“Her (Jean’s) performance is like a thunderstorm, breathtaking and powerful, in which every lightning bolt is politically-charged.”  Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“With this awe-inspiring show of moral and musical strength, Mecca Normal concludes Wrong Wave 2014 in all the right ways.”  Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“The overall vibe of this interview is testament to the fact that Mecca Normal is definitely not some relic of bygone times but a vibrant and prolific artistic force. I’ll admit that I was only familiar with their musical output, of which I consider to be absolutely necessary to listen to if you haven’t already. I have had my eyes opened to the other artistic outputs of this duo — Jean Smith and David Lester.”  Getting Past The Static (Austin, TX)

“In the early nineties I bought my first Mecca Normal album, the cassette tape of “Dovetail,” released in 1992 by Olympia-based independent record label K Records.  I was 13 or 14.” Sweetheart Redux Interview

Portland Mercury 
“Of all the bands that emerged from the vibrant ’90s underground scene, the one that’s most unfairly glossed over is Mecca Normal. It’s likely something to do with the Canadian duo’s uncompromising sound: the slashing guitar chords of David Lester snapping at singer Jean Smith’s challenging feminist lyrics and fearless singing. It was blues music filtered through a punk prism. Twenty-plus years later, and the pair haven’t shifted their aesthetic in the least, only calmed it a little. Their most recent album, Empathy for the Evil, was recorded with former Bongwater founder Kramer, who adds a welcome psychedelic tinge that lends a strangely wistful quality to these often stirring political anthems. This show continues M’lady’s Record’s series of shows celebrating the Portland label’s seventh anniversary.”

The Seattle Stranger
“Formed in 1984, Vancouver, BC, rhythm-section-less two-piece Mecca Normal have no shortage of weird left.”

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