Hanley: Cherry Marmalade
By: Sara Zeno
In a music culture full of sonic sugar rushes, Kay
Hanley's Cherry Marmalade is a delectable treat with
substance. A mature woman and stunning mother with industry experience
to back her up, she's an intelligent counterpoint to the current
slew of exhaustively produced pre-fab princesses.
Husband Mike Eisenstein
partners with her by co-writing six of the album's songs and playing
guitar throughout. Both formerly of the amicably separated Letters
to Cleo, they are proving it is possible to successfully combine
the personal with professional.
Hanley's indelible voice
soars across the album, dipping and gliding over phrasings both
delicate and tough. In her writing, she's particularly adept at
creating perceptive imagery that triggers an immediate reaction,
such as this vision from Faded Dress: Like a grade school
valentine / My heart is asking and aching all the time.
This Dreadful Life
is a zestful call to embrace life through all its complications
and seize everything this dreadful life has got to adore,
a deft twist on the expected word "endure," showing that
a slight change in perception makes all the difference. The song
also shares the insight that it's not a lie because it's true
/ youth is wasted on youth / especially when you let it pass you
by, urging the listener to embrace the here and now.
With Princely Ghetto,
Hanley's voice is so sensual you can feel her seductive gaze upon
you, lips parting to proclaim, I just want what's mine. Made
In the Shade explores the regret of a relationship that wasn't
meant to last: I said I'm sorry / and I can't say it any better
than that, while Faded Dress flips the situation as the
narrator realizes she's losing her lover: It's not fair when
I'm cast as Gatsby . . . And I got a sneaking feeling about you
/ Such as you got other better things to do / If you want to hurt
me it's an unqualified success. In Mean Streak, Hanley
practically spits venom through the speakers, humorously combining
the paradoxical feelings of missing someone with wanting to knock
him off the face of the earth.
Throughout the musicianship
and imagery of Cherry Marmalade, it is Hanley's fantastical
voice that commands the album, luminous as the light of Venus. Literate
and smart, she explores heartbreak and regret alongside joy and
fulfillment with wit, insight and spunk.