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Exene Cervenka

The Excitement of Maybe – 2011 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Exene Cervenka

It would hardly be a hyperbolic exaggeration to cite Exene Cervenka as the godmother of punk. Her mesmerizing presence in X in the late '70s was a decidedly different translation of the visceral rock that was coming out of London and New York at the same time, a blend of urban rockabilly, garage rock and, eventually, a dash of Bakersfield for West Coast authenticity. Cervenka's country spices bubbled to the surface more clearly when she and ex-husband John Doe explored their rootsier side project, the Knitters, or when she veered into her solo acoustic direction in the late '80s/early '90s.

"The Excitement of Maybe," is largely a continuation and expansion of 2009's "Somewhere Gone," Cervanka's first solo album in nearly two decades. On "Maybe," Cervenka retains the mellowed atmosphere and some of the twangier aspects of her previous affiliations while amping up the Dusty Springfield-meets-Neko Case pop elements, crafting an interesting alternative to the work she's typically produced over her long career. There's a tremulous, vulnerable quality to Cervenka's vocals, very different from the strident tone she's delivered with X, Auntie Christ and the Original Sinners, that is the perfect complement to the melancholy and cautiously optimistic songs she's written on "Maybe," from the wistful wonder of Already in Love to the dry desert ache of Alone in Arizona to the keening lope of I Wish It Would Stop Raining.

But "Maybe" isn't all sad reflection, either; Falling and I'll Admit It Now are jaunty evocations of love set to a rootsy soundtrack. It's doubtful that Exene Cervenka will turn her back on her various other sonic identities, but "The Excitement of Maybe" is solid evidence that she could.