Tag Archives: Jean Smith


SEATTLE Museum of Popular Culture (formerly EMP) Saturday, April 22, 2017, 5:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

16 minute film by Jean Smith for PopCon 2017, introduced by Evelyn McDonnell (Associate Professor of Journalism and New Media and Interim Director of Journalism at Loyola Marymount University in LA).

PopCon 2017 theme is music and politics.

The annual EMP Pop Conference, first held in 2002, mixes together ambitious music discourse of every kind in an attempt to bring academics, critics, musicians, and dedicated fans into a collective conversation.

Jean 1

Jean 2

Stills from the film. Jean Smith performing “The Dogs” outside Pages Books on Queen Street in Toronto circa 1993. Jean Smith being interviewed by Much Music inside Pages, talking about feminism and the increase of women in bands.

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Beaten Down LIVE

It might just be that the guitar is too loud because of the proximity of the amp to the camera, but, over the years, I think more than a few soundguys have made a point of turning down my vocals because they don’t like how I sound and what I’m saying.

Dave and I recently spoke about the idea of bolstering live vocal recordings after the fact. Just as an idea. Might be something I will try with this video.




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A Condensed History of Mecca Normal

A brief history of underground rock duo Mecca Normal’s early years in TV news clips and live footage to give background and context to Jeans Smith’s ongoing $100 painting series.

Jean Smith paintings currently available

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Sex Stains’ Allison Wolfe in Pitchfork

Sex Stains’ Allison Wolfe (formerly of Riot Grrrl band Bratmobile) describes moving from Olympia to DC in the 90s in a new Pitchfork feature on music that has mattered to her.

“I brought all my records over, including this one 7″ by Mecca Normal, this band from Vancouver that was very influential in the Olympia music scene. “Strong White Male” was an anthem of mine. I would play it all the time because all of a sudden I was surrounded by a lot of strong white males who were too entitled, who had grown up with a lot more money than a lot of the Olympia girls. It talks about that privilege that’s invisible to the people who possess it but painfully obvious to the people who don’t.” – Allison Wolfe

Video by David Lester

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Pitchfork’s story of feminist punk in 33 songs

pitchforkMecca Normal‘s “Man Thinks Woman” (1987) made the cut with a great write-up by Douglas Wolk for Pitchfork’s story of feminist punk in 33 songs

“Mecca Normal break rules like they never noticed them in the first place. The Vancouver-based duo of singer Jean Smith and guitarist David Lester are anarchist-feminist activists and constant experimentalists, implying a rhythm section with negative space alone. Always an intense presence onstage, they’ve become the most tenacious of D.I.Y. road warriors, touring and recording for 32 years now. In the early ’90s, they popped up on most of the biggest American indie-rock labels (Sub Pop, K, Matador); by their 25th anniversary, they were on the road with a performance-and-lecture project called “How Art & Music Can Change the World.”

Smith’s lyrics often foreground her political perspective; their anthem “Man Thinks ‘Woman,’” released in 1987, started out as a barbed dissection of gender normativity: “Man thinks ‘woman’ when he talks to me/Something not quite right.” The song kept expanding its radius from there, encompassing both bitter poetics and a disarmingly funny account of a drunken makeout gone weird. Kathleen Hanna has cited Smith as an early inspiration: “When I saw her,” she told The Fader, “I was just like, that’s it. I’m done. I’m sold.” –Douglas Wolk

“Man Thinks Woman” video by David Lester


“Oh Yes You Can” 7″ on K Records (1987)


Jarred Up” compilation of singles on K Records (1993)

A mess of Mecca Normal songs pulled together from singles and compilations dating to 1992, rounding out the first eight years of their existence. Dunt fear, Mecca Normal are still going strong! Jarred Up reveals the awesome might of their thing; it is the essential Mecca Normal Document.

A K Records Essential.

Track Listing
Strong White Male
Man Thinks Woman
He Didn’t Say
Follow Down
It’s Important
How Many Now?
Horse Heaven Hills
This Is Different
Armchairs Fit
You Heard It All
Fan of Sparks
Upside Down Flames
From The Surface
More More More
One More Safe

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Jean Smith Portrait Paintings video

Paintings from my ongoing $100 series strung together in a video with me talking (somewhat abstractly) about being the daughter of very emotional (volatile) painters. Featuring my thoughts on an early introduction to the concept of quality, the importance of art, and my indoctrination into believing that paintings are about human interactions (if not themselves essentially part of those same interactions).

$100 Paintings Still Available

This monologue touches on my early indoctrination into “the emotional realms of painting”. The paintings featured are from my recent, ongoing series of $100 paintings “The Hat”, “No Hat”, “Angry Woman in Rock”, “Kabuki”, and “The Singer”.

It all started with “The Hat” series in January, 2016. I posted the first one on my FaceBook page and it sold that same day. Hours later, someone was offering me money in advance for the next one! Since then, paintings in this series have been purchased by painting instructors from the University of British Columbia and the Art Institute of Chicago, a painter whose work was exhibited in the Whitney Biennial, 2014 in New York City, and by a critic for Artfourm Magazine.

Paintings from this series are posted by month on Jean Smith Artist and on FaceBook

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All Albums

All Mecca Normal’s albums (except the most recent one) are somewhat-secretly archived, chronologically, song-by-song in Normal History the weekly column David Lester and Jean Smith collaborate on for Magnet Magazine.



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Jean Smith $100 Paintings

Jean Smith $100 Paintings – an ongoing series

The Hat #1 800

“The Hat #1″ (acrylic on watercolour paper, 11 x 14”) January 7, 2016. SOLD

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Jean Smith and David Lester have been making music together for thirty years as Mecca Normal, they’ve released thirteen albums on a variety of labels, and with Empathy for the Evil they have certainly remained flavorful and fresh.

There’s no real question about quality here, though their 2006 album Observer is eight years old it was proof that they were still going strong, writing and performing interesting and provocative music. Traditional has never been a word that anyone would use to describe the music of Mecca Normal, from the very beginning it was just Jean and David, a voice, and a guitar. There has rarely if ever been a rhythm section, the busiest you’re likely ever to hear their music is the inclusion of a saxophone or some gnarly guitar overdubs. It’s Smith’s voice that has always been the flash and flare, one of the most recognizable voices around it does hand-stands and cartwheels, it back-flips and does handsprings, it’s also totally capable of walking in a simple straight line one foot in front of the next. She can lay out these gorgeous melodies, and in the next breath blast you with poetry slam phrase/phrases.

Often it feels as if the band is getting away with something, things most other bands could never get away with. Take the album’s first song Art Was The Great Leveler, you’re immediately cut by Lester’s slashing guitar, possibly the slight hind of bass, and then Smith’s prose without real melodic inflection at least until you get to the gut punch of “art was the great leveler.” This song, as with all the lyrics on Empathy for the Evil, come straight from Smith’s recent and unpublished novels, it’s a formula that works so well on this album that it forces you to pay attention to what is happening and not what is missing. In fact, the way that Smith and Lester mix their styles together is particular admirable, regardless of the vocal style Smith employs, Lester’s guitar slashes or slow burns, they compliment one another beautifully.

The first time I ever remember hearing Mecca Normal was Narrow on the first Kill Rock Stars compilation, it stands out as one of the stranger songs on the comp, and unlike anything I’d ever really heard before, yet it’s also one of the most appealing, you just don’t know where it’s going to go. This is a trait shared among all the songs on Empathy for the Evil, it’s shrouded in mystery, impossible to predict any trajectory. The album dabbles is various tempo’s, a chasm of emotions, and gnarly and twisted expectations, by the time I came all the way to the end with Odele’s Bath, I felt nostalgic, optimistic, and highly satisfied. It’s not really important that Mecca Normal has hung around for thirty years, what is important is that they’ve weathered the constant assaults on a disabled industry, and the destructive powers of time, which can eat away at your passion and your partnership. You put on Empathy for the Evil, and it’s like your listening to Mecca Normal at the hight of the Riot Grrrl movement, when the Northwest was the center of the music world, when people appreciated the ingenuity and the artistry of artists like Jean Smith and David Lester. The question really isn’t did this wine go bad? It’s just how good did this wine get? Which in this case is delicious.

Empathy for the Evil is out right now on M’lady’s Records, and you really shouldn’t go another day with out giving it a listen.

Brian Snider
Secretly Important


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