Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows,
Matador CD OLE 162-2, 1996
Silky literate pop
First things first. Veteran songwriter Barbara Manning is both a baseball
nut and from San Francisco, so she named her band SF Seals after the city
by the bay's old minor league baseball team. Baseball aside, the aquatic
name fits the several songs on this disc that draw inspiration from la mer
(the shimmering vibraphone in "Ladies of the Sea" beautifully
evokes the rhythm of the waves).
This is a catchy collection of pop songs, full of soaring harmonies and
sharp hooks. Succulent textures, too, with cello and viola accompanying
most songs. A few obscure covers - including the Pretty Things' "SF
Sorrow" (will someone please reissue this album on CD?), and John Cale's
"Soul of Patrick Lee" (here sounding as though covered by Patti
Smith) - show the Seals' good taste in resurrecting buried treasure.
Unfortunately, on several tracks the Seals sound like a carbon copy of
their better-known labelmate, Liz Phair. They do a pretty Phair imitation
of her sound: jangly guitar songs full of quirky chords and changes, topped
with wispy vocals about romantic misdealings. True, Barbara doesn't share
Liz's fondness for foulmouthed lyrics, but if Matador somehow mixed up the
tapes and put tunes like "Locked Out" or "Pulp" on Liz's
album, I doubt many fans would ever be the wiser. - Scott Boggan
Barbara Manning, vocals; Melanie Clarin, accordian; Brently Pusser, guitar;
Margaret Murray, bass.