Earth Rock Wreckerds
I first started writing record reviews for the Montreal Gazette back in 1975 and one of the LPs I wrote about that first year – they were LPs in those days, it would be well into the 1980s before CDs came along – was Seductive Reasoning, the debut of a sister duo, Maggie & Terre Roche, built around quirky, affecting songs and terrific harmonies. Later, younger sister Suzzy Roche joined up and they became The Roches, releasing a series of albums between 1979 and 2007.
Terre Roche released her first solo album in 1998 and has participated in several other projects. Imprint, an exquisite album released in 2015, is just her second solo project.
Imprint is an intimate album. It’s just Terre’s voice and guitar with bassist Jay Anderson. Most of the time all we hear are the live-off-the-floor sounds of the voice, guitar and acoustic stand-up bass and the communication between Terre and Jay is remarkable. The voice, guitar and bass weave in and out and around each other in a seemingly effortless way. There are overdubs on some songs – a harmony vocal or second guitar part from Terre and some percussion from Jay that blends in so organically that these parts, too, seem like they’re coming off the floor at the same time.
Terre’s songwriting – she wrote 12 of the 13 songs on Imprint – is also quite remarkable. Her lyrics can be somewhat oblique or abstract on some songs, more straightforward and obvious on others – but they are always captivating, quietly demanding the listener's full attention.
Among my favorite songs is “Tinkle,” a sad, extended portrait of a disintegrating relationship. Jay’s bass playing on this track seems like a human heart beating as Terre sings to a departing lover. Another heartbreaker is “Maxwell,” a poignant elegy for a loved pet cat who has passed on.
While most of these songs seem too quiet and too personal to have been Roches songs, there are some that are reminiscent of the sister trio. I can easily imagine the three of them belting out “Stick Up Hair,” which lampoons a trumpian politician who is “naughty” and “mean” and has “stick up hair.”
“Calabash Boom” and “Waning Cats and Dogs” with their Roches-like overdubbed harmonies also remind me of the trio.
Imprint is the work of a highly creative singer, songwriter and musician. These songs continue to reveal more every time I listen again to the album.