BIJOU PHILLIPS – I’d Rather Eat Glass

The daughter of John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas (about whom plenty could be said, given some past revelations, but now isn’t the time) Bijou Phillips is actress. At other times, she’s a model. When neither of these, she’s been a wild child and your average Google search would suggest she’s someone who’s keen on taking her clothes off. Lesser known facts about Bijou include her abilities as singer-songwriter, which so far have yielded just this one album. ‘I’d Rather Eat Glass’, produced by ex-Talking Heads man Jerry Harrison, is a mixed bag. As the title suggests, it’s quite spiky around the edges, though essentially most of it fits neatly into the rock-pop mould. …And yeah, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking a model/actresses album is some kind of vanity project, but don’t dismiss this, as Bijou has a really strong voice and more than enough talent to make this work.

The opening track ‘Hawaii’ instantly grabs your attention. The guitar riff is a little off centre and in a tuning which seems a step away from the norm. Sadly, I’m not a musician, so I can’t elaborate on that, but it’s a great way to get things started. The alternative pop-rock seems in keeping with a large chunk of the album’s material, but just when you think you know where it’s going, it breaks into an odd calypso-ish break.The guitars are turned up for ‘I Own You’, which is very chorus driven. You’ve heard this all so many times before, but somehow it still retains its charm. Similarly as rocky, but delivered with a quirky vocal, ‘I Never Shot The President’ starts with attitude and then refuses to let go. ‘Little Dipper’ is a stand-out ballad, with a piano led arrangement and probably one of the most heartfelt vocal deliveries this album has to offer, telling a tale of childhood visits to the protagonist’s mother’s house. It stands out, in part, due to a contrast with the spiteful edge present on most of these songs. ‘I Am A Mountain’ seems at first to be in a similar style to ‘I Own You’, but then during the between-verse breaks, the guitars are quite thrashy.

‘When I Hated Him (Don’t Tell Me)’ was the lead single and it’s not difficult to see why. Its radio-friendly angst fit the late 90s model of strong female singers, after Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ took over the world and seemingly opened doors for dozens of people to bare their souls. At first listen, this may feel a little drawn out at over six minutes, but it’s a slow burner and the addition of gospel style backing vocals for the last couple of choruses is a nice touch. ‘Breakfast’ provides good closure, being acoustic based, allows the listener to wind down a little after some of the sharper edged stuff.

I’ve had this in my personal collection for a while now, having bought it purely on the strength of a couple of really positive reviews, without hearing a note. In short, I still can’t recommend it highly enough and most of the people I’ve played it to feel the same way. If you’re out there and those Natalie Imbruglia albums are just that little bit too sugary for you, you know where to look next. This could be a genuinely overlooked gem from the tail end of the last century.

September 2007/November 2009