Barbara Manning 

Super Scissors

If you asked a passel of hipsters which woman performer epitomizes indie rock, many might likely answer Kim Gordon, PJ Harvey, or pre-Versace Courtney Love. For many others in Europe and America, especially in the Bay Area, the answer is obvious: Barbara Manning. She plays a singular synthesis of ominously melodious, strummy, and clangy garage/punk rock ('60s-influenced, albeit no retro baggage), droning Krautrock, and overtones of psychedelia and pensive, modal Anglo-American folk. Her singing conveys both aching vulnerability and indomitable, fierce resolve. Manning has channeled her muse into varied contexts, including bands World of Pooh, SF Seals, and the Go-Luckys, but Super Scissors focuses on her solo work.

Super is a tidy (and remastered) three-CD set anthologizing her albums Lately I Keep Scissors (1988) and One Perfect Green Blanket (1991), plus a disc of radio sessions and alternate (studio) versions. Scissors is, relatively, the "quietest" album here, but there's plenty of contained snarl within, especially the seething, cynical "Breathe Lies" and the at-the-abyss "Make It Go Away." (In retrospect, Scissors augured the recent alt-folk realm of Espers and Joanna Newsom.) Blanket rocks more overtly, evoking the crisp, autumnally haunting handiwork of New Zealand combos the Chills (bless 'em) and the Bats (no surprise, as both are faves of Manning's) as well as the Velvet Underground's ballad side. (One "bonus" track is a cover of Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight," rendered as the VU might've circa its third "couch" album.) There're enough "extras" for fans of Barbara to make Super Scissors a must-have. Bold novices should take the leap with one caveat: You're liable to want more.

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