Maggie Roche — RIP

To use Robert Christgau’s phrase about Elvis Costello, the Roches made me an admiring non-fan. I’ve owned the eponymous 1979 debut for twenty years and haven’t yet understood why the harmonies of three sisters should still unsettle me. The lead singer and writer, Margaret Roche could write cute-arch songs like “Damned Old Dog” and a killer like “The Married Men,” about a woman whose bad choices make for a chronic disease. Keep on Doing has “Losing True,” another excuse for Maggie, Suzzy, and Terri to gather ’round a mike to savor the contours of vowels as rounded by melody. Speak, my favorite Roches album, goes ham on the synth presets, which suit the trio as well as they did Leonard Cohen; “Broken Places” celebrates a fraught sisterly bond or a same sex relationship that demands constant vigilance. Poets tend to write lines as precise as the following: “I love you for all of this/struggling towards happiness.”

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