Q - 5/95, p.1023 Stars
- Good - "...as accessible yet confrontational as ever....takes unerring aim at the suffering caused by indifference to AIDS, by homophobia in liberals and by injustice, especially to women. This she does in venomous monologues, pointed stories and sometimes harrowing, sometimes mocking scenes. Powerful and compelling listening..."
Alternative Press - 4/95, pp.65-66
"...DENIAL is a theater of sadness, anger and purification, detailing Finley's growth as an artist by its range of characters and depth of feeling....A CERTAIN LEVEL OF DENIAL is riveting live theater....in your living room..."
Recorded at This Way Productions, New York.
All songs written by Karen Finley.
A CERTAIN LEVEL OF DENIAL includes a 56-page booklet containing the complete text and the original artwork.
A Certain Level of Denial requires a certain amount of tolerance since this is the literary/spoken word portion of a performance piece and thus divorced from any visual context beyond the booklet photos. It's also very much of a time -- the days and years of rage when the AIDS plague was decimating large segments of the population -- and you wonder how it's going to hold up divorced from that time frame. Still, it's very wearing to listen to an hour of pure Karen Finley rant and rage against indifference (both family and society), homophobia, and women's roles and place in society. The funny thing is that Finley is an artist, but she's not into metaphor, symbolism, or subtlety -- it's all about naming and venting in no uncertain terms what she doesn't like. She rejects any dynamics in vocal delivery beyond her two chosen voices -- normal or screechin' and ragin' full on -- and she's not at all funny here (as she has been on some musical pieces she recorded). Story pieces ("Woman's Best Friend," "Roadkill," the two "Aunt Enids") fare best mostly because they offer a bit of a break from the onslaught, and "In Memory Of" is a rarity in conveying heartfelt feelings and memories. But for someone with such a radical reputation, the objects of her scorn are surprisingly traditional, and one measure of how Finley fails here is that you can shrug off pieces like "The Session" and ""It's My Body" with "Yeah, yeah, right, I know that rap." There just aren't any original insights going on and the "I'm so tired of well-meaning people" mantra she finally arrives at in "He's Going Home" echoes Faith No More's We Care a Lot, but sans the irony and thus far less effective. She misses nuances and rhythms that could bring "An Act of Conscience" to life, but then understatement has never been part of her art. Neither is consistency, because there have been times she's so dead on target you get put through an emotional wringer, and then there are the other times when she's so far off the mark you want to rein her in and make her stop. The latter wins out by far on A Certain Level of Denial -- what value it may have is as a social document of a time and place when venting anger was a necessary catharsis. ~ Don Snowden