Picks and Pans Review: Only Everything

updated 04/17/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1995 01:00AM

Juliana Hatfield

Hard to picture this willowy singer from the Boston area as the mistress of the mosh pit? Deal with it. She kicks off her third solo album with the punky, full-tilt rumble of "What a Life" and rarely slacks off thereafter.

This clamorous, amplified stance is a startling transformation for Hatfield—and, for the most part, an unbecoming one. While her guitar playing has plenty of bark, it lacks bite. Her stiff solos are amateurish, consisting of a few repetitive chords banged out at maximum distortion. (Crude technique is not in itself a liability among Hatfield's core campus-based audience, who prefer their rock without polish.)

The real stumbling block with Hatfield's going electric is her diffident voice. It lacks the vehemence and immediacy to keep pace with the roaring guitars. The album's first single, "Universal Heart-Beat," would make an ideal platform for a group like the Pretenders, but Hatfield's reticent, artless voice takes the lid off the pressure cooker. It is no accident that the track with the softest focus, "Live on Tomorrow," is by far the record's most penetrating and poignant offering.

One of the songs on Only Everything is titled "Simplicity Is Beautiful." If only Hatfield had carried that axiom into the studio with her. (Atlantic/ Mammoth)

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