Ani DiFranco always gives the most she can. Even in the packaging of her
new live album, Living in Clip, you get more than you think you
would. The double discs come sheathed in a glossy cover and packed in with
them is a sixteen-page photobook documenting the tour from which the songs
were taken. Recorded live between September 1995 and November 1996, the
thirty-one songs reflect the wide range of emotions tapped into by Ani's
song writing abilities, drawing material from among her nine previous solo
releases as well as including some new material and live dialogue clips.
All in all this is a great deal for Ani veterans, as well as a good intro
album for newcomers.
In the liner notes of the album Ani offers definitions of power, power amp
and the phrase "clipping an amp" which means, "overloading an amplifier
with a sonic signal that exceeds the machine's power capacity resulting in
a terrifying snapping sound and the illumination of a tiny red warning
light on the face of the amp indicating that it is about to blow." Then,
to further clarify the origins of the album title, she includes a quote
from Larry I. Berger, her tour P.A. tech, "the stage amps are, like,
living in clip, man." So, what does this mean? "Living in Clip." Is it a
metaphor? I think so. And what can you do but accept it.
The reason this album would be a good one to get if you've never heard an
Ani before is because as she says "I've never been a studio musician" and
the songs on her studio albums never "sound nearly as much like themselves
as they do here." So this is the goods. If you like Ani's folky acoustic
punkster antics as they're presented on this album than you're probably
good fan material. And old fans really don't need to be sold on it, one of
the most well known features of Ani' s career is her solid and extremely
loyal fan base.
As of late Ani has been getting insane amounts of attention from the
media. Despite being an independent artist and releasing albums on her own
label she has managed to be on the cover of numerous national publications
and well as making a network television appearance on "Late Night with
Conan O'Brien". She is the postergirl for the do-it-yourself crowd. And,
moreover, she'd be voted most unlikely success story by music industry
standards, proving that you dont have to be corporate to make cash.
One of the highlights of the album is the alternate version of "Both
Hands", the first song off of her self-titled first album. The original
version was pared down to just her voice and guitar, a far cry from the
Living in Clip version which begins with an hugely elaborate
orchestral introduction performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic. The essence
of the song is not lost however as the orchestra fades and Ani and her
guitar take over. This song is perhaps itself a metaphor for the change
that Ani has seen in her career, emphasizing just how much of an impact
she has had on both the industry and her fans as her career progressed
from bedroom recordings and busking to a double disk live album and
stadium-sized shows all without losing the essence of her original
"Fire Door", another song from her early days is present in a morphed
version on Living in Clip. The song, written while she was still in
her teens, emerges on this album as a tighter and infinitely more polished
song. This time she performs it as a successful and passionate singer,
focused and confident--which, considering the circumstances, seems only
The greatest strength of Ani's songs is in her words. In "Willing to
Fight" she sings, " I think its absurd / that you think I'm the derelict
daughter / I fight fire with words / words are hotter."
At times she exudes confidence "I don't have time for you to wonder, I'll
just take who I am here" and other times she exposes her vulnerability ,
as in "I'm no Heroine", "Let me tell you I'm usually face down on the
ground whenever theres a stampede.I'm too easy to roll over, I'm too easy
to wreck, I just write about what I should have done and sing what I wish
I could say."
Ani, ably backed on this album by bassist Sara Lee and drummer Andy
Stochansky, is a singer songwriter who has mastered her particular style
of punky folk guitar. Musically, however, this limits her to one style and
one sound, staccato guitars and undulating vocals. Not to say that all
the songs sound exactly the same, Ani simply has an distinctive style.
Even if Ani's guitar playing style doesn't appeal to you, if the
opportunity presents itself, please give her a listen, her words, and the
significance of her career are enough to warrant support of her projects.
Living in Clip is an extensive showcase of Ani's songs. Recorded
live, they capture her propensity as a performance artist, a side often
lacking in her studio releases. The music and her interaction with the
audience create an interesting double disk which, when paired up with the
photobook give an intimate and interactive Ani experience.