The most notable aspect of the latest Lisa Marie Presley record is just how languid it sounds. The music suggests the storms in her life are over, and that that she has found grace. Hah! That’s a laugh. The lyrics reveal a different woman who still has animosity towards those who have done her wrong. Presley’s the aural equivalent of David Banner in the new Avengers flick. When asked how he remains calm and doesn’t always transform into the Hulk, Banner responds with something like, “The secret is that I am always angry.” That’s Presley’s furtive strategy as well.
Well, that and the help of producer T Bone Burnett. His production includes sweeping sonic soundscapes with sparse instrumentation, like John Ford’s panorama’s of the Old West. Except here it’s the twang of a guitar rather than a mesa, the pounding of a snare drum instead of tom toms, and the lonesome wail of Presley instead of John Wayne’s stoic stare. The big picture Burnett provides intentionally makes Presley seem small and human.
This allows Presley to complain without seeming spoiled. Her persona on this disc is that of a smart and sensitive woman. This is both a blessing and a curse to her. She is smart enough to know that some people have used her in ways that were not in her benefit, but soft enough to forgive them. That doesn’t mean she’s not angry anymore. Or that she’s trusting. Consider the recitation that begins “So Long”.
This here is the city without lights
Those are all the people without eyes
Judges they don’t have soul
Soup for sale without a bowl
Religion so corrupt and wrong it lies
Farewell, fair-weather friends
I can’t say I miss you in the end
So Long. It seems that I was so wrong
Presley has been transformed. She admits she erred in judgment about the her place in the world, her faith in god, her friends, and even herself. She wants to start over. This is the grace she sings about later in the title song. She can accept her mistakes and wants to move on. Burnett’s Americana style production grounds her vision of the future in her personal past.
So she boldly sings on “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”, “I’m a bit transgressive and subversive as well”. Some people may see her as evil for the things she is doing (the song is allegedly about her break with Scientology), but she’s literally marching to her own drummer here. Sure she can forgive. There’s a touchingly wistful tune called “Forgiving” that purposely sounds unconvincing.
Yeah, and she’s not angry anymore, except that she is. Presley may be a bit confused about the new life that awaits her and openly admits that she is somewhat directionless. But she also assures the listener that she’s okay now. She may not turn into The Hulk, but as the only daughter of one king and the former bride of another—not to mention as a one-time tabloid queen during her turbulent marriage to Hollywood’s Nicholas Cage—Presley has been larger than life. That’s all right. Everything is under control now.