Singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco hit her stride with 1995's "Not a Pretty Girl," in which poignant tenderness tempered the upright indignation and her hardcore-flatpicking guitar style found more groove than on her earlier cult-making, musically redundant albums. Then she began twiddling studio knobs, using tape loops and vocal effects, with mixed results.
"Up Up Up Up Up Up" swims in these trip-hoppy oceans. Lost is the way her guitar rhythms punctuate her often-incisive lyrics, which fall somewhere between laughing and spitting, and combine stridency with endearing self-deprecation. Here, some fine lyrics poke through, but they're diffused.
The extended mood forays of the eight-minute "Come Away from It" and the 13-minute "Hat Shaped Hat" exemplify what's lost and gained in her current direction. The first lilts, but ultimately its slow-motion sway bores. "Hat Shaped Hat," though, bounces with funk, flavor and, most important, surprise. The most accessible cut, "Angry Anymore," is also the best in a collection too often plodding and amorphous.
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