1.9.13 — “Bruises” by Lisa Germano

Lisa Germano

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Bruises” by Lisa Germano (1996, from the album Excerpts From a Love Circus).

Lisa Germano is a dream-pop/folk rock musician who is originally from Indiana. She’s been making solo records since 1991 and has a new one called No Elephants scheduled to come out next month on Badman Recordings.

Before her solo albums, Lisa Germano did a lot of work as a studio/touring musician. Most notably, she had a long stint as the violinist for fellow Hoosier John “Cougar” Mellencamp. Yeah. She’s the one who’s crushing it deep South blues-style in that depressing video for Paper in Fire.

Germano put out four records for 4AD Records, between 1994 and 1998 including Excerpts From a Love Circus, which is where tonight’s song comes from. In my opinion, that set of four records are the best from her ten solo releases (and not counting the forthcoming No Elephants).
After the release of her 1998 album Slide, she had a run of really bad luck and mistreatment. It was about that time when 4AD Records was in a distribution and promotion deal with Warner Brothers Records. After that deal ran out, 4AD reverted to being completely independent and autonomous. This meant that the less than profitable artists got the heave-ho. However, she already had something lined up. Or so she thought. She had been invited to join Smashing Pumpkins as a touring musician and backing vocalist on their Adore tour. She traveled to Chicago for a couple of weeks of rehearsal, but the day before the tour started, Billy Corgan fired her with no explanation. Getting dropped by her label and getting fired by Billy Corgan contributed to her decision to “quit music”. She moved to Los Angeles and worked in a bookstore, but the whole “quitting music” thing didn’t work out. She got back to it pretty hard. In 2002, she self-released two albums, and found a small label to release anther in 2003. That label went under, then she released two albums between 2006 and 2009 on the tiny label Young God Records. Finally, she ended up with Badman, and her new record is due out in February.

On Germano’s 1993 album Happiness, there’s a song called “Miamo-tutti”, which is a variation on the Italian “Mi amo tutti”, which means “I love you all”. I’m not sure if the song came first, but around that time, she had a cat named Miami-Tutti. And another named Dorothy. Both cats contribute guest “vocals” on Excerpts From a Love Circus. Tonight’s song has a 17-second portion at the beginning. It’s just Dorothy mewing, and that section is called “‘Where’s Miamo-Tutti?’ by Dorothy”. It was mislabeled in the liner notes as an add-on to the end of the previous song “A Beautiful Schizophrenic”. I guess in the mastering or authoring process, something got messed up, and that bit was tacked onto the beginning of “Bruises”.

With all that background information in mind, here’s tonight’s song:

“Bruises” by Lisa Germano

I love her violin playing here. I prefer her “violin” songs to her “piano” or “guitar” songs, even though the piano and guitar ones are easier to digest. I’ve said so many other times on these pages that I’ll take the violin any day because of its expressiveness.

I can’t really be sure, but there’s some vague hints at an abusive situation in this song. Psychological abuse, physical abuse, alcohol abuse. It’s all there, but it’s never made abundantly clear what’s going on. And what’s even less clear is whether the narrator is the one dishing out the abuse or the one on the receiving end, or a witness. So many other questions.

At the start of the song:

Coffee in the morning
And wine in the evening
And everything else is boring, boring

You are a nothing
But all I can think of is you
The sun could be shining,
But all I can see is a black and blue

and at the end:

And when you start counting
There’s too much to count
And it’s all repetition
And what did we do by the way?

I know it’s a warning
But all I can think of
Is coffee in the morning
Wine in the evening
And everything else is a black
Or boring bruise, bruise

Make it better, all right
Make it better, all right
Make me better
Make me better, all right

I like the mystery, but there’s a tiny bit of a clue on her website page for this album. It’s a blurb that Lisa wrote to explain the entire album:

In control of yourself or so it seems
and you go backwards … habit…
and give your control to someone else
you LOVE THEM SO MUCH… ha ha..
of course they dump you heartlessly

The whole record is about emotional and psychological instability. Even knowing that, and even with the little “clue” that Lisa left, there’s still a lot of questions.

I think that Excerpts… was deleted from the 4AD back catalog and her website doesn’t have a functioning shop, but you can get Excerpts… from amazon here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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