Why are you dreaming this? One shoe off and one bridge to cross over?
August 11, 2019 3:06 PM   Subscribe

When Indigo Girls decided to release their first (and so far only) self-produced album, the result was the wide-ranging, sonically challenging political statement that was 1997's Shaming Of The Sun. which featured musician friends and adventurous arrangements across a wide range of styles and topics. Coinciding with their participation in Lilith Fair, it was one of their most political albums to date. The work struggles with themes that continue to echo strongly now, over 20 years later. Cassette Side A: Shame On You [music video of album track, alternate music video, backing vocals by Steve Earle, bonus: live performance on David Letterman, 4-29-1997], Get Out The Map [ed. note: how does this song not have a video?], Shed Your Skin [backing vocals by Ulali bonus: Tom Morello remix Stephen Nikolas club mix edit], It's Alright, Caramia, Don't Give That Girl A Gun [backing vocals by Michael Lorant]

Cassette Side B: Leeds [backing vocals by Ulali], Scooter Boys [backing vocals by Michelle Malone], Everything In Its Own Time, Cut It Out, Burn All The Letters [backing vocals by Ulali], Hey Kind Friend [performed with members of Smoke, the lead singer Benjamin's voice is also heard on the track]
posted by hippybear (23 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for this look back. Always some of my fave music. I did fact checking and editing on a book about the music history of the lesbian community. It naturally included Indigo Girls.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 3:15 PM on August 11, 2019

Full Album YT Playlist.

This album has some of IG's strongest material IMO but also is sort of problematic. It starts out emotionally buoyant and goes into a downward spiral and just keeps getting lower. But that's sort of what life felt like at the time, and it's equally relevant now 22 years later.

Truly one of my favorites by them, even if it is difficult.
posted by hippybear at 3:19 PM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

My dad took me, as a fifteen year old girl, to Lilith Fair (his suggestion, as I recall), and whenever I need one sentence to sum up how lucky I am to have him, that’s the one.

I’ll definitely have to take some time to look back why this album.
posted by obfuscation at 3:21 PM on August 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

I really wish I could still listen to this band without remembering their statements in the early 2000's about the "complicated" question of trans inclusion and MichFest. Google tells me they eventually took a half-assed swing at scurrying on to the winning team, which has conveniently obscured those earlier posts.

It's extremely common to be "political" in the sense that one doesn't want one's own face eaten by a leopard, but whatever happens to someone else's face is only a problem if it'll inconvenience one or make one look bad. Feh.
posted by bagel at 4:18 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Indigo Girls have long championed indigenous peoples' rights and class issues far above any LGBTQ activism. The causes they've championed both in their music and in their own IRL activism aren't about their own faces being eaten, but nearly always have been about someone else. They took a stand on this issue and as far as I know they have not broken that stance. People evolve across time and they evolved in the correct direction, as even you acknowledge.

That you can't forgive them for believing something else and realizing they were wrong, that's on you.
posted by hippybear at 4:31 PM on August 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

I've always thought "Shed Your Skin" a very strange song for such an explicitly lesbian group, as unlike many songs addressed to "you," this one seems hard to not read as being about a man. Still like it, it's just always puzzled me.
posted by praemunire at 5:01 PM on August 11, 2019

The snake imagery can't really escape phallic associations and there are arguably other signals that code a bit male, but it's never struck me as necessarily so. Snakes are not just penis metonymy, snake handling could be about handling ones own libido or any erotically charged body, writhingly passionate engagement is not distinctively male, nor is shedding restraint.

I am partial to this remix.
posted by wildblueyonder at 5:41 PM on August 11, 2019

One hundred fifteen, you are seventeen, itchy trigger, venomous

I always saw this song about toying with someone dangerous and trying to convince them to call off their rattling and their rearing back and instead shed that skin for something more friendly. I'd never seen it as a gendered song at all, just about dealing with possible danger.

Don't free it, just be it.
posted by hippybear at 5:48 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm speaking in tongues
Handling you
I got religion now
Look at it

Not to be crude, but. Anyway not a big deal, just something that always struck me.
posted by praemunire at 6:45 PM on August 11, 2019

Not to be crude, but "speaking in tongues" could be rather vivid lesbian imagery. I always took it as such.
posted by hippybear at 7:47 PM on August 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

This album was a favorite for car sing alongs when my kids (b 1989, 1992) were little, especially Shame on You. My daughter's (the elder) intense affinity for the stanza that begins "Let's go road-block tripping in the middle of the night..." was an early manifestation of the subversive streak that runs to her core.

My son was most enthusiastic about these lyrics:
My friend Tanner she says you know me and Jesus we're of the same heart
The only thing that keeps us distant is that I keep fuckin' up.
Because nothing thrills a little kid like a free pass to say "fuck".

Both kids were here this weekend—something that typically only occurs around the holidays. These memories have pulled me out of the glum mood that descended when they left this evening.

Thanks for the post.
posted by she's not there at 9:37 PM on August 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

People evolve across time and they evolved in the correct direction...

That you can't forgive them for believing something else and realizing they were wrong, that's on you.

Well said.

If everyone who wants to see Trump defeated in 2020 took these words to heart regarding candidates, I would stop fretting over the possibility of a second term.
posted by she's not there at 9:50 PM on August 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Re Shed You Skin: I found the following, attributed to Amy, on an old Angelfire website that lacks documentation re sources, so take it with a grain of salt.
I wrote 'Shed Your Skin' after my breakup as a song to my ex-girlfriend about how important it is to go do your thing and celebrate it and celebrate yourself. The growth we experience through all that pain is really important. The Indian stuff enters into it because it was happening at the same time and there were some of the same sentiments. My dedication to activism took away from my relationship. I found it important to say, 'Look, what I've been involved with has given me some freedom in my heart and soul that I've never experienced. You should find the same thing.
posted by she's not there at 10:11 PM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hey, I read bagel’s comment and felt a lot of familiarity, though I can see both sides here. There’s a bunch of artists from that time that hurt folks with their ambivalence about MichFest, sometimes the time it took for them to clearly decide to stop supporting a trans-exclusionary policy was long enough to make it hard to forgive and/or forget. It makes sense to feel a sense of wariness around that kind of stuff.

We absolutely need to be able to let people evolve but it’s okay to state that you have a hard time getting over hurt caused it in a public forum like this without it being dismissed so harshly. I think if you’re outside the marginalized group that was harmed and/or if you weren’t pretty invested in MichFest and upset that the transphobia that pervaded it caused a huge rift in the lesbian community that process might be easier said than done. Or maybe you are trans and were invested in MichFest and totally don’t get squicked out by the Indigo Girls at all, that’s totally valid!! I am not trying to say one way is right, just trying to explain why bagel’s comment made sense to me as someone in the latter camp (for the record cis but closely following MichFest from when I was just coming into my lesbian identity).

While we’re talking about Trumpism, I think we also have to give folks a little grace right here on Metafilter. I don’t know bagel’s identity or history but speaking for myself, I feel cautious about supporting artists who chose to play MichFest even when they later came out strongly on what I think is the absolute only correct side of things — because as bagel points out, it took them some time to get there. For me there’s a lot of other artists who didn’t need to evolve and I ended up following them, without needing to wonder about their motivations.

All that being said this was a cool post to see because I just chatted with a new friend about how the Indigo Girls were so hugely important for her, how they helped keep her alive when she was young and couldn’t come out. And we laughed about how when we were younger that another woman saying they were into the Indigo Girls (or Ani or Melissa Ferrick OR Etheridge) was a pretty reliable way to know they were queer too. There’s the scene in (also very problematic!) The L Word where many of the main characters are in a van on the way to Dinah Shore and they’re all singing “Closer to Fine” (the whole way over and over) and it gave me chills. It might be the reason I have some warm feelings towards that show because it was that feeling of belonging and community their music gave to so many people. (And to bring it back around that’s why it could be so hurtful to remember that they caused a feeling of exclusion to those who belonged on the land/in our community.)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:36 PM on August 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

The above quote re: Shed Your Skin, cited here.
via the 'nets longest run and best IG resource, lifeblood.net.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:46 PM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

as per the title of this post... do they EVER play Caramia???
posted by emirenic at 6:21 AM on August 12, 2019

This album was the beginning of the end of a long Indigo Girls fandom/obsession period for me. I loved every album before that, with Swamp Ophelia and Rites of Passage being 2 of my favorite albums of all time. But starting with this album, IG no longer grabbed me in the same way. I don't know if they changed or I did, or maybe some of both, but I rarely played this CD in its totality and instead focused on the few songs I liked, like Leeds, Burn All the Letters and Get Out the Map. Songs that I thought I would really like, like Caramia, just became too... whiny? strident? not sure. Too much. I had the same experience with the next album and never found my way back to them again, which is a shame.

Still absolutely adore their early stuff, though.
posted by widdershins at 6:55 AM on August 12, 2019

Been a huge fan since late 80s in university, and then had the pleasure of being their body guard at an indigenous women's concern in Santa Monica in 1994. They are both so down-to-earth, smart, sweet, talented, and kind. Must admit that my ear is less tuned to later works, but I still think they are awesome.
posted by terrapin at 8:42 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

widdershins, I feel similarly, but I *loved* Despite Our Differences (2006), fwiw.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:53 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

do they EVER play Caramia???

i've seen them perform Caramia several times. It's always when they have a full band because the song doesn't reduce well to an acoustic show.

But starting with this album, IG no longer grabbed me in the same way.

My big "this isn't quite what I hoped for" album from them was Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, which has never really gelled for me despite me wanting it to. Even that album has the totally amazing Emily song Fleet Of Hope, though. Also never really got into Beauty Queen Sister. One Lost Day was a little better for me, but again, it wasn't a compulsive repeat listen like most of their other works. They're working on a new album right now, due out later this year, so we'll see what they bring us in 2019.
posted by hippybear at 5:49 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's telling that I don't have a "yes, but check out THIS song" from either Beauty Queen Sister or One Lost Day to share off the top of my head.
posted by hippybear at 8:07 PM on August 12, 2019

They have been doing Elizabeth off of One Lost Day in concerts lately, and it's a nice song, very Emily. It was fun seeing them do it in Atlanta and wondering if Elizabeth was there.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:15 AM on August 13, 2019

Back in 2007 or thereabouts there was a personalized license plate in my Oakland neighborhood that read "IGFan." It was covered with bumper stickers for the band.

I've never cared for them, but I appreciate that level of fandom.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:35 AM on August 13, 2019

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