The Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

The Juliana Hatfield Three - Whatever My Love

The Juliana Hatfield Three – Whatever, My Love

With a wave of younger bands – everyone from Alvvays to Yuck – exploring a lust for early-‘90s indie-rock idioms, it’s perhaps only fair that some of the original veterans should get a slice of the retro action.  Yet few probably predicated a return for The Juliana Hatfield Three; especially given that the trio released only one album (1993’s Atlantic Records-backed Become What You Are) and the fact Hatfield has sustained herself over the last two decades as a respected solo artist and a seasoned collaborator (with the likes of Some Girls, Minor Alps and a briefly reunited Blake Babies).  Which begs the question; do we really need a second LP from The Juliana Hatfield Three in 2015?

For those fans that loyally helped to crowdfund the album’s recording via Pledge Music, the answer must be an unequivocal ‘yes.’  As an opportunity to reconnect on a personal/professional level with bassist Dean Fisher and drummer Todd Philips and to re-scratch an itch for adolescent angst anthems, the answer is more for Hatfield to answer herself.  For the rest of us, the necessity of Whatever, My Love is less clear cut.

At first, it does seem quite forced, with many songs so overtly referring back to those gathered on Become What You Are that it feels as if the last twenty or so years haven’t hugely mattered to the album’s gestation.  In this sense it appears as if Whatever, My Love is giving fans of the first JH3 album a little too much of what they want; which isn’t entirely healthy.  Hence, polished early-’90s production values envelope a slew of alt. rock songs which strongly revisit the threesome’s minor MTV hits like “My Sister” and “Spin The Bottle” (“Invisible” and “I’m Shy”) and recall the soundtrack choices of now-vintage US teen dramas like My So-Called Life (“Now That I Have Found You” and “Ordinary Guy”), to the point where it becomes a tad toe-curling.

Yet, if you can get past the awkwardness of Hatfield, Fisher and Philips re-channelling their twenty-something musical personas, then Whatever, My Love brings forth some more likeable moments.  Thus, the long-in-the-works “If I Could” appears as a joyously uplifting folk-rock song almost on par with something from The Lemonheads’ seminal It’s A Shame About Ray (on which Hatfield guested); the bass-propelled “Push Pin” provides some delightfully infectious if facile hooks; “Blame The Stylist” thoughtfully picks apart the visual objectification marketing of Hatfield’s major label years; and the hiccupping rhythms and four-legged friend allegories of “Dog On A Chain” give the album some much-needed angularity.

Overall then, Whatever, My Love is a mixed affair.  Die-hard lovers of Become What You Are will have few real complaints but might perhaps overdose a touch on déjà vu.  For the less pre-devoted, a cherry-picked yet economically-unviable EP selection from the album might have served this reunion better artistically.

America Laundromat Records