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Holly's Hobby

How did Holly Golightly go from being a music fan to a garage-rock cult figure? Hell if she knows.

Thee Headcoatees made their recorded debut with 1991's Girlsville and followed up with several more platters made for indie imprints -- Vinyl Japan and Sympathy for the Record Industry among them. Along the way, Golightly began coming up with her own material. Whereas many musicians make this process seem either complex or sacred, she coolly demystifies it. "I started writing songs because we needed songs to record," she says. "That's all it was, really. We needed some songs, so I wrote some."

Several of the ditties Golightly conceived were issued as singles prior to the arrival of her solo bow, 1995's accurately titled The Good Things. As one would expect from a Headcoatees alum, the album is unpolished, spare and willfully primitive, but it's seldom as wild and hysterical as most discs to emerge from the Childish universe. Instead, Golightly keeps things low-key on "Virtually Happy," the gloriously echoey "Wherever You Were," "Hold On" and many of the other cuts on hand, giving a relaxed, postmodern twist to the rock rudiments that inspire her.

"I wanted to play more R&B-sounding stuff," she maintains. "For one thing, I like the sound of a standup bass, a double bass, over the electric bass, and that wasn't really what we were doing in Thee Headcoatees. I just wanted to try something different."

Death becomes them: Pretty Girls Make Graves.
Death becomes them: Pretty Girls Make Graves.

On the other hand, Golightly knows what she likes and sees no need to make arbitrary alterations. Subsequent solo efforts such as 1998's Serial Girlfriend and 2000's God Don't Like It aren't interchangeable clones, but neither are they extremely dissimilar. Golightly offers no apologies for her consistency, nor should she: Unlike those performers who fear they'll sound dated if they don't make concessions to current styles, she does what she damn well pleases. "It's not hard to ignore trends if you're oblivious to them," she says, laughing. "It takes me no time or trouble at all. I just ignore the fact that it's happening. You only have in your life what you want in it, right? You don't have to listen to shitty radio -- so I don't."

The prospect of being tagged as retro in retaliation for this attitude doesn't bother her in the slightest. "If that's what people want to call it, that's fine; I don't care. I suppose people think, 'Oh, yeah, she does sort of old rock-and-roll songs and some of her own songs.' And that's pretty accurate, as far as I'm concerned."

It is in the case of Truly, available on the Damaged Goods label. With assistance from longtime collaborator Brand and associates such as guitarist/double-bassist Sir Bald Diddley (wonder what book his mom was reading when she was pregnant), Golightly contributes nine originals that drip with wit and charm. "Walk a Mile" juxtaposes an insouciant lope of a melody with the lyrical lament "You think I got it easy?/Try being me." Later, "Without You Here" turns Golightly into a one-woman girl group; "One Neck" offers up rockabilly of the creepiest sort; and the ultra-catchy "You Have Yet to Win" sets up shop at the intersection of Sassiness and Irony.

Also present are a couple of entries from the catalogue of the Kinks' Ray Davies. But rather than drag warhorses like "You Really Got Me" around the track one more time, Golightly and Brand, whom she refers to as "the oracle next door," unearthed some genuine obscurities. The dirty-toned "Time Will Tell" and "Tell Me Now So I Know" both hail from the same 1965 studio session and are known only to the most dedicated Kinks spelunkers. "I wanted to record them because I thought they were great songs," Golightly says. "I pick songs for different reasons. Sometimes I might choose something because it has a good guitar riff or a line I like. But it has to be something I can sing with conviction, something I can have a good go at. If I've been singing along with something for twenty years, I figure I can get away with singing along with it for three minutes."

Her approach to performing is just as casual. When she first became a frontwoman, she concedes, "I didn't like playing live, because I didn't like playing and singing at the same time. I had to practice, and I didn't like that much. The whole thing required a little more thought and concentration. But it came pretty easily, and now I have great fun doing it. I think it's great to look out and see people smiling and dancing at the same time.

"I'm quite happy with what I'm doing -- or else I wouldn't be doing it," she adds. And then she sits down to eat.

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