In the mid 90s, I only knew Juliana Hatfield as the chick with the super cute voice who sang Josie and the Pussycats on the awesome Saturday Morning: Cartoon’s Greatest Hits compilation. But even then, all the way back in 1995, she’d already had a good run in the band Blake Babies, played a pretty big role in recording the Lemonheads seminal album It’s a Shame About Ray, and was well into a successful solo career. A solo career that really hit its stride with Only Everything.
The thing that stands out most when you press play, is how loud Only Everything is. A solo album from a female singer, songwriter comes with certain preconceptions. Acoustic preconceptions. But What a Life blasts this album out of gate with a genuine rock sound that is perfectly juxtaposed with Hatfield’s girly voice. The slower, sludgier, grimier Fleur De Lys is a different juxtaposition that delivers results that are just as good.
Then there’s Universal Heart-Beat, as close to a perfect pop-rock song from the 90s that I think you could ever find. It’s been on heavy rotation in my music listening life for close to 20 years now, and it’s still great. The sweetly poppy verses, giving way to the fuzzed guitars of the chorus. Every band did this in 1995, but not very many did it this well.
Even when things get a little quiet and tender on Live on Tomorrow, Hatfield finds a way to keep things just as interesting. With Dying Proof and Bottles and Flowers, she goes one step further, seamlessly combining the best of the loud and the best of the quiet of what came before, to make a single song that encapsulates both, never at the expense of either.
After the mid album reprieve, as was the style at the time, the energy picks up again in OK OK. It’s fast, it’s loud and it’s totally awesome. Like the paring of What a Life and Fleur De Lys in the opening minutes, matching OK OK with Congratulations as Only Everything begins to look toward the finish line, is another great showcase of the duelling energies of Juliana Hatfield, using their differences to great effect.
Then there’s My Darling, buried in the final few tracks. And it’s buried for a reason. Finishing with You Blues, it’s not a bad song, it’s just nowhere near as good as so many other songs that Only Everything has to offer. Juliana Hatfield was only 28 when she made Only Everything, but already a bit of music veteran. And she’s cranked out plenty of great stuff in the 20 years since. Listening to Only Everything with that hindsight, it’s even better knowing that those early years were no fluke.