Beer and Pavement

The Matador 100 Project: Mecca Normal’s Water Cuts My Hands (Olé 011)

Posted in Challenge, Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on May 4, 2016

Screenshot 2016-05-04 at 2.35.29 AM

From 1990 (or maybe 1991), Mecca Normal’s third effort gets the full Calvin Johnson treatment as it was released jointly by Johnson’s K Records and Matador. Lo-fi and full of riot grrrl growl, Water Cuts My Hands (and Mecca Normal’s output in general) is a seminal release for 90’s indie rock. Aggressive, atonal, and rhythmic guitar onslaughts from David Lester balances with the Patti Smith-channeling poetic snarl of Jean Smith. In fact, I would argue Jean Smith’s performance bridges the gap between Smith and the riot grrrl movement of the 90’s, but what do I know?

A highlight is “20 Years No Escape” with it’s tape hiss, repeated guitar licks, and commanding delivery from Smith which meshes aesthetics from the previously mentioned lo-fi and riot grrrl subgenres with that special K Records twist. The song is simple, sparse, but it packs an intense punch. Lester’s guitar is hypnotic and perfectly clashes with Smith’s stream-of-consciousness yelps.

Gerard Cosloy describes Mecca Normal best…

A quick note about Ole-010: As I embarked on this project, it became clear that a number of the first 100 Matador LP’s listed on their discography were never released by the label. Some were released on other labels while a few never really saw the light of day. Either way, I decided not to include these records as they were never released by Matador. This means the list will go beyond Ole-100 and some will skip, like this current post. Also, I will throw in tiny blurbs so as to acknowledge their part in Matador lore.

Ole-010 was supposed to be Bailter Space’s Thermos, released on Flying Nuns Records in 1990. Eventually, Matador did reissue the New Zealand band’s second album on CD, but I’m limiting this list to vinyl presently.

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3 Responses

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  1. jeansmith said, on May 5, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Wow! Great to see this! I just wanted to point out that Mecca Normal wasn’t a Riot Grrrl band, although we have been referred to as an influence on the co-founders of the movement. Also, none of the songs on this album were stream-of-consciousness. Our material is written, rehearsed and typically performed many times before being recorded. I mean, I’m totally into improvised music — my other Matador band, 2 Foot Flame, had more experimental, improvised material. Mecca Normal’s 13th album “Empathy for the Evil” was produced by Kramer and released by M’Lady’s in 2014. Mecca Normal is on FaceBook

    • SM said, on May 5, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Sorry, Jean. I did not mean to call Mecca Normal “riot grrrl.” I was trying to elude to the connections and influence your band had on the movement. I think it’s obvious that you were hugely important to the movement although not part of the movement. Does that make sense? Of course, after reading my post, I realize how it might come across that way.

      Also, thanks for the inside info on nature of Mecca Normal. I think a true testament to what you accomplished is that despite writing and rehearsing your material, it comes across as spontaneous and authentic (although, I hate that word).

      Either way, thanks for commenting and – more importantly – thanks for making such amazing music!

      • jeansmith said, on May 5, 2016 at 9:28 pm

        Thanks for the very kind response! One never knows what sort of reaction to expect in comment land. I figured this might be an appropriate place to make a couple of points about things that have been stated elsewhere, mostly in reviews from long ago, without my refuting them. Such things tend to get carried forward if clarification isn’t offered. So, thanks for the opportunity! And, for the record, nothing against Riot Grrrl, we just weren’t members. Yours in authenticity, Jean

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