Heart Like a Gun

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At her boiling-point pinnacle, Fiona's soaring, occasionally corrosive voice finally gets the fine-tuned material it deserves -- and she co-wrote nine of the ten tunes. Listeners learn over the power chords that "Mariel" is in deep trouble, though they don't learn how or why. "Victoria Cross" is getting put to bed after a long night on a turning point; "If it wasn't all so sexual," the protagonist admits, "well, we might have stayed friends." "Where the Cowboys Go" pleads for a lover to leave town, "while we still can/While we're young," but the pleader lacks the independence of Fine Young Cannibals' similar "Don't Look Back," and her resolve slips as the bass synth oscillates. The material is consistently strong, but also all of a piece, and this friend on a ledge, or that bit of lesbian intrigue, form settings in an overarching mythology; these songs embody the train-crash-intense emotions of the young (or the emotionally intense of any age). In their exhilarating and harrowing street-opera encounters over greasy pizza and sticky Coke, at a house party with the folks out of town, or in an upstairs bedroom real or imagined, they pack the thick misery and release of the "Gotterdammerung." Like anything with intensity, it's tempting to laugh; when Fiona and Kip Winger moan, "you're sexing me," at each other, someone with farm experience could imagine them sedately side by side, determining the maleness or femaleness of newly hatched chicks. Against that, though, you might be well-advised to ask yourself the last time you felt this much blood in your veins.

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