PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Juliana Hatfield: Peace & Love

Juliana Hatfield remains deep in mourning for the days of Crystal Pepsi and Pogs, but can't seem to say anything very intellectual about it here.

Juliana Hatfield

Peace & Love

Label: Ye Olde Records
US Release Date: 2010-02-16
UK Release Date: Import

For those of us who came of age in the era of Slap Bracelets, Crystal Pepsi, and Pogs, the '90s are a bit of a sacred cow. One of the current indie generation’s defining aspects is its penchant for nostalgia -- and it serves as a kind of revisionist history that in retrospect we have painted the alternative era as this golden age of MTV video blocks and Dickies flannel jackets, while carefully omitting home truths about the period’s less pleasant memories (the Oklahoma City bombing, the OJ Simpson murders).

In our age of Auto-Tuned pop starlets, bling, and MTV forgetting music altogether, the nineties provide a comfortable safe haven to retreat towards, one of those rare spaces of years where the popular music on the radio was also the artistically important music. Sentimentalists from the '60s talk about where they were at the time of various assassinations. The closest to those dark recollections our generation gets may be recollections of the Cobain suicide. The '90s are as important to a generation of 20somethings disillusioned by the Iraq War and American Idol as the '50s are to our nation’s elderly, or the '60s to the Boomer crowd. A time of innocence, a time of confidences.

As a token of the '90s nostalgia and fond reminiscence, Juliana Hatfield is an easy choice. Who doesn’t remember hanging out in the neighbor kids’ rec room with some Doritos watching her wail about hating her bitch sister on The Jon Stewart Show? But as a strange time traveler from 1993 still rudely permeating our record shelves, she now seems almost insulting. The rock heroes of our halcyon grunge days were supposed to die tragically or fade away. Instead, Hatfield has done the unthinkable, continuing to quietly put out records that few have noticed, as if expecting some anachronistic career revival.

Well, break out the Skip-It, because Peace & Love is Hatfield’s most '90s-throwback-sounding disc yet, ironically dressed in the "maturity" of acoustic folk-songs. Hatfield wants desperately to give the impression that she’s “too adult” for fuzzed-out rockers now, but the lyrics belie a different truth, of a Hatfield saying the same things she did in 1993, just with a softer backing track to appeal to the yuppies that were once Generation X. Dad can now feel safe rocking out to this in the minivan on the way to a PTA meeting, and recall bong hits of college past without actually having to revisit them.

The other major difference here is that it’s all Hatfield, all the time. Every instrument played here is by her hand. That doesn’t do much for artistic maturity, however. Hatfield, now 42, still pouts and simpers like the quirky, willowy '90s songstress she was 20 years ago. But she’s not any longer, and the impression one gets is the kind of cringing embarrassment you feel when your mom rocks out to some hip young tune on the radio while driving your friends to Cub Scouts. You wince because if there’s one thing worse than your parents being desperately uncool, it’s when your parents try to be cool. It violates the social order; parents are supposed to be square, and when they try to be otherwise it’s like a first-year ESL student narrating Shakespeare.

So, the album is uncool, there’s that, and still too '90s to be anything different than what came before, anything less than dated. We open, however, with a much different '90s touchstone, one that you could call a sort of afterbirth of the alternative era. “Peace & Love”, with its double-tracked vocals and gentle acoustic pickings, recalls Lilith Fair alumni like Shawn Colvin and Paula Cole, and that ain’t a good thing. The rather cliché naivety of the chorus doesn’t help much, either. “I won’t give up on peace and love, don’t give up on peace and love.” Thanks, Juliana. I’m happy for you in your dedication, and I don’t plan on giving up on peace and love anytime soon. But do you think perhaps you had anything else to say that might seem, oh, a little deeper on the subject? No? Okay then. “I want us all to be happy”, she concludes. A pretty simple wish. A pretty upbeat sort of yearning for basic human contentment. A pretty dull-tastic lyric.

Track two, “The End of the War”, doesn’t improve much on this template. The song comes across a little more upbeat and Elliott Smith-like (it’s not often those two adjectives share the same plate), but still full of lyrical clunk like “The cowards lie in the tall grass” (rather than “standing in the tall grass”, Cowboy Dan?). And so it goes from there, some lovely singing and acoustic melodies, some absolutely knockout gorgeous harmonies, but little variation on the primary colors of Hatfield’s lyrical themes. “I feel like I’m broken, I know you feel the same, we’re both pretty damaged, fragile and afraid, why can’t we love each other?” These sorts of lyrics make us reach the conclusion that Hatfield’s fourth-grade adolescent poetry once meant so much to us because, well, we were in fourth grade. Neverland isn’t quite so appealing in the context of Recession Wasteland 2010, and such simplistic, childlike sentiments simply don’t apply when we’re all struggling to pay our utility bills, or eating mustard with spoons. “I Picked You Up” even manages the most unforgivable sin of all, which is sounding like Sheryl Crow. No one, not even Sheryl Crow, should ever, ever sound like Sheryl Crow.

But despite all this, the absolute, essential problem of this disc is that the “I, me, we” themed lyrics create no sort of universal focus that may have rescued Hatfield’s work here from Gen X throwback tedium. There’s opportunities aplenty to include us in her admittedly affecting, mournful nostalgia, in her mourning for the lost era of her golden age. Instead she shuts us out and hunkers down into a well of emo self-pity, and frankly its been done by better (again I consider invoking the ghost of Elliott Smith here). We never looked to Juliana Hatfield for poetry, we looked to her for angst, for smart-girl guitar heroics and fuzzed-out noise. Ms. Hatfield, please put down the acoustic and step away. Have a Crystal Pepsi, put on a Slap Bracelet, and turn up those goddamn amps.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.