Juliana's Pony Total System Failure

Double albums are one thing, but releasing two records simultaneously is another entirely. But for Hatfield, it works - because you can listen to the rockin' slash-and-burn Total System Failure at a listening post before you invest in the much worthier adult pop record, Beautiful Creature. The album titles are fairly apt, although the rock record does have its redeeming moments, most of them lyrical. This is Hatfield at her funniest and most bitter, heaping bile on boy toys ("Houseboy"), All About Eve ladder-climbers ("My Protegee"), teenage girls in SUVs ("Road Wrath") and overly fertile families ("Breeders"). While amusing, it doesn't really stand up. Beautiful Creature, on the other hand, is full of the type of quiet pop gems that redeemed her last two releases. After years of avoiding personal lyrics, it's tempting to search for autobiography in songs like "Choose Drugs," about a lover who opts for the titular fate when she presents him with an ultimatum between his habit and her. But "Might Be In Love" and "Somebody Is Waiting For Me" are universal heartstring-tuggers, written with more wit than whimsy; they might just prove to naysayers stuck on "My Sister" that Hatfield is a powerful popsmith who's not about to fade away. (Island)