Juliana Hatfield Three / Juliana Hatfield

Whatever, My Love

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The Juliana Hatfield Three released only one album, so it's hard to say that the trio built a long legacy that warrants a comeback 22 years later. Nevertheless, the JHT's 1993 album Become What You Are did mark a high point of sorts for Hatfield, becoming her first album to chart in the Billboard 200, so it's a touchstone for a significant chunk of her audience and, as it turns out, there is indeed a difference between a Juliana Hatfield album and a Juliana Hatfield Three album. Whatever, My Love -- the two-decade-delayed second album by the JHT -- is her first to trade so heavily in stripped-down, hooky guitar jangle since Become What You Are, so the album immediately demonstrates that bassist Dean Fisher and drummer Todd Philips form a genuine band with Juliana and don't merely function as her supporting cast. If the sound of Whatever, My Love does indeed contain echoes of 1993, it's also very much its own thing, a tougher, flintier, and better record than its predecessor, one that benefits from the explorations Hatfield has made in the past decade. By marrying her wry, world-weary songs to the brighter, optimistic punch of the JHT, Hatfield winds up with a record that delivers a hard, immediate hit -- particularly on the cynical pop "Ordinary Guy" and grind of "If Only We Were Dogs" -- but leaves a lasting scar that's soothed by the melodies and that ringing, hooky pop that is often labeled as collegiate but now feels deeper and richer in the hands of rockers who never deny their impending middle age. In other words, it's the best kind of reunion because it's not only lacking in nostalgia, it shows that some things can be better the second time around.

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