Juliana Hatfield released the album Bed in 1998. It was a strange time for her, her ‘moment’ had well and truly passed, and her ‘God’s Foot’ album was lost in record company politics. So for many, this was the first anyone had heard from her in a number of years. It’s safe to say that had this album been released four or five years earlier it would have received far more attention. Hatfield’s perfect combination of pretty melodies, sweet vocals and gently fizzing guitars is very much in evidence here.
Down On Me opens with a brief blast of feedback, but this, and the growling guitars that follow don’t obscure a song which is as poppy as anything she has put out. It’s a little like The Knack updated for the nineties. Stronger again is the following track I Want To Want You, it rocks a little more sedately and Hatfield’s vocal is almost robotic in its cold detachment, with economic, no-frills guitar work is very good.
Swan Song is possibly a bit too clever for its own good. It rocks reasonably hard with a Kinks-referencing riff and quotes Nirvana in the lyrics (“you can’t fire me cos I quit”), before channelling John Mellencamp on “dear Jack I hate you love Diane”. It’s another entry in the long line of ‘answer songs’ (see Sweet Home Alabama and thousands more). She even squeezes in the Stones’ “I said Yeah yeah yeah woo” from Brown Sugar!
After all of that, Sneaking Around and Backseat arrive as well-timed breathers, albeit very moody ones. Again some terrific guitar work from Hatfield. The latter could easily have been one of those slow-burning radio hits for somebody, perhaps a newer artist or at least one less out of fashion than Hatfield was in 1998.
Live It Up and You Are The Camera rock bloody hard, the latter of these being particularly anthemic, in the Pearl Jam Ten-era mould. She hits gold with some fine acoustic guitar playing on Running Out. The one sour note is Bad Day which is a little generic and anonymous.
The problem Juliana Hatfield faced was that grunge was firmly out of fashion in 1998, and there was no neat box to put her in. So this album was unreservedly overlooked. It is well worth a proper listen.