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Mecca Normal

A seminal influence on Northwestern indie rock (and especially on the riot grrl movement), Vancouver's Mecca Normal was the bridge between female post-punk primitives like the Raincoats and the Slits -- not to mention Patti Smith's punk poetry -- and the more explicitly political, feminist noisemakers of the '90s. Lo-fi, amateurish, and decidedly minimalist, Mecca Normal was essentially a duo, with occasional studio help; vocalist Jean Smith (also a poet, novelist, and painter) declaimed her stream-of-consciousness, aggressively topical lyrics over guitarist David Lester's clattering cacophony. Their prolific partnership lasted over two decades, during which time they earned a reputation for fiery concert performances and enjoyed stints on some of the era's most notable indie labels, namely K, Matador, and Kill Rock Stars.

Smith and Lester formed Mecca Normal in Vancouver in 1981, at which time both were working in design for print media. After several years of rehearsing, the duo made its first home recordings in 1984, and completed its first album in 1986; simply titled Mecca Normal, it was released on the band's own Smarten Up! label and sold chiefly at live shows. It helped lead to a friendship with Beat Happening frontman and K Records honcho Calvin Johnson, who signed the band for its 1988 sophomore effort, Calico Kills the Cat. A stream of albums on K followed, including 1991's Water Cuts My Hands, 1992's prettier and more subdued Dovetail, and 1993's Flood Plain. 1993 also brought Jarred Up, a compilation of the band's singles for various indie labels over the past six years.

Mecca Normal subsequently signed with Matador and debuted with 1995's well-received Sitting on Snaps, which featured musical involvement on drums and piano from New Zealand producer Peter Jefferies. Smith and Jefferies formed a concurrent side project called 2 Foot Flame, which released two albums over 1995-1997. Jefferies stuck around for the next two albums, 1996's The Eagle & the Poodle and 1997's more acoustic Who Shot Elvis?. Mecca Normal subsequently went on hiatus for a few years while Smith and Lester pursued other creative activities; in 2000, Smith signed to Kill Rock Stars and issued her self-titled solo debut. Mecca Normal returned in 2002 with The Family Swan, also on Kill Rock Stars. Album number 13, The Observer, appeared two years later, along with a spring tour of both U.S. coasts. Shoplifting joined them for the East Coast dates. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Observer

1. I'm Not Into Being The Woman You're With While You're Looking For The Woman You Want

2. Attraction Is Ephemeral

3. I'll Call You

4. To Avoid Pain

5. 1922

6. Fallen Skier

7. His Own Madness

8. The Dark Side Of Maria

9. Arsenal

10. The Caribou & The Oil Pipeline

11. The Message

12. The Observer

x

Track List: The Family Swan

1. Is This You?

2. What About The Boy?

3. Revolution#Pine

4. In January

5. Every Wrong Word

6. I Hear You

7. Family Swan

8. No Mind's Eye

9. Ice Floes Aweigh

10. Convince Yourself

x

Track List: Jarred Up

1. Strong White Male

2. Man Thinks Woman

3. Forlorn

4. He Didn't Say

5. Follow Down

6. It's Important

7. How Many Now?

8. Horse Heaven Hills

9. This Is Different

10. Armchairs Fit

11. Accidentally

12. You Heard It All

13. Days

14. Rose

15. Fan Of Sparks

16. Narrow

17. Broken Flowers

18. Upside Down Flames

19. From The Surface

20. More More More

21. Echo

22. One More Safe

x

Track List: Flood Plain

1. Ribbon

2. Current Of Agreement

3. Nobody's Asking

4. A Kind Of A Girl

5. Greater Beauty

6. Waiting For Rudy

7. Straying To Summer

8. Walking The Walls

9. On The Row Of Dials

10. Texada Warns Me

11. Museum Of Open Windows

x

Track List: Mecca Normal

1. Who Told You So

2. Are You Hungry Joe

3. Not With You

4. Tolerate Me

5. Sha La La La La

6. Scare In The Hallway

7. I Walk Alone

8. Beaten Down

9. Phone's Unplugged

10. Women Were King

11. Fight For A Little

x

Track List: Dovetail

1. Throw Silver

2. Held

3. Cherry Flowers

4. This Machine

5. Not Yet

6. Once

7. Drilling

8. Clatter

9. Flashlight

10. Engine Rain

11. Trapped Against

x

Track List: Armchairs Fit Through Doorways

2. Armchairs Fit

3. Accidentally

x

Track List: Cardboard Box House Of Love

1. Forlorn

2. He Didn't Say

x

Track List: Malachi (Single)

1. Malachi

2. Blue Sky & Branches

x

Track List: Oh Yes You Can

1. Man Thinks Woman

2. Strong White Male

3. More More More

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