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Martha Wainwright

Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole [EP]

(Drowned in Sound; US: 15 Nov 2004; UK: 22 Nov 2004)


Naming your EP Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole is pretty damn brave, especially in these delicate days when media programmers across the country have their FCC-fearing fingers poised over the “mute” button. It’s also a rebellious introductory stance for an artist looking to provoke or silence potential critics (not to mention its possibly mutinous affect on one’s own professional career).

Not that Martha Wainwright need worry; she’s yet another member of a well-known, ridiculously talented musical family, one that includes her brother Rufus, father Loudon III, and mother Kate McGarrigle. Although the 28-year-old Wainwright has been appearing on records for years (mostly those of her family), she’s taken her time prepping an official full length solo debut. That debut reportedly will reach shelves in late February, leaving us with the 14-minute teaser EP Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole for the time being.

The four songs on Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole—featuring Wainwright on guitar and very sparse organ or keyboard embellishments—are as uncompromisingly raw and immediate as the EP’s title. Wainwright comes on like gangbusters in the opening title track, angry, aggressive, immediately on the defensive. “I’ve been poked and stoked / It’s all smoke, there’s no fire / Only desire for whoever you are,” she sings in her forceful voice that cracks and gives way under its own strain, like Björk reciting Throwing Muses, adding: “I will not pretend, I will not put on a smile.” She then repeats the title obsessively like it’s both a curse and a mantra, closing up an unflinching, unyielding proclamation of self.

It’s hard to follow up a song with such gravitas and shock value, so perhaps that’s why the following three songs feel slightly less important. “I Will Internalize” is a slower self-examination, lifted by a bluesy bridge and tiny organ embellishments. “It’s Over” plugs Wainwright’s guitar in, the chords rumbling like little earthquakes under brutal honesties like “Your secret’s not safe with me”. The EP finishes up with a cover of the Carroll Lucas-Jack Owens tune “How Soon”, a jazzy slice of Tin Pan Alley that marks the only melodic similarity with her brother. It takes all three songs combined to render the same impact as the ferocious title track; “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” is on such a high level of truth that it tends to obscure anything else that sits near it.

It’s about time that Wainwright got around to releasing her own album (although Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole follows a few other EPs, no full length official record has been made). She’s as different from her brother as her brother is different from their father, but like both men, she’s fiercely honest and stubbornly candid. With any luck, 2005’s new album will rank her as equal to both. Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole (its title track in particular) makes a strong case that such a scenario is destiny.


Zeth Lundy has been writing for PopMatters since 2004. He is the author of Songs in the Key of Life (Continuum, 2007), and has contributed to the Boston Phoenix, Metro Boston, and The Oxford American. He lives in Boston.

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