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Looking Into the Darkest Corners : Pop Beat: In her new 'Geek the Girl,' Lisa Germano bares her emotions, delving into the realm of paranoia and depression.

November 12, 1994|LORRAINE ALI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Sometimes I wish I was cooler, like Courtney Love or something, where I could scream and get all this emotion out," says Lisa Germano. "But I just have to remind myself, 'This is just what you do, even though it's weird and uncomfortable sometimes.' "

What Germano does is unleash suppressed emotions in quiet torrents that are dark, disconcerting and painfully honest. On her new album, "Geek the Girl," the 35-year-old singer deadpans, whispers and lilts lyrics about her paranoia and depression while sprinkling the heaviest of subjects--including rape and infidelity--with sarcasm. Germano (who appears Nov. 23 at LunaPark) adds sidewinding violin, spare guitar and far-away effects for a hazy, surreal backdrop.

Although Germano finds her music therapeutic, she also recognizes that it's fairly self-obsessed.

"I feel like what I do is totally selfish," says the petite dark-haired Indiana native, sipping red wine in the lounge of a Hollywood hotel. "Then someone says they relate to my music, and then I think maybe what I do is good. Pain is a universal feeling, sadness too, and when you live through it and you can pinpoint it, it's gonna touch somebody as if they felt it."

Though her music hasn't touched the souls of Top 40 listeners, it has made a strong impact in the smaller arena of eclectic rock. It's a world that's miles from her previous role as violinist in populist rocker John Mellencamp's band. Germano's introverted and low-key music doesn't exactly convey the same rural scenes of chili dogs and wheat fields.

"Because of my association with him, I thought people would expect my first album to be a more fun record," says Germano, who released her debut recording, in 1991. "Even now, it's hard to shed that 'you're John's fiddle player' thing. When people talk about my music or new record, they feel they have to have that strength behind it. It's like, 'She's kind of weird, but she did play the fiddle with Mellencamp, so she must be OK.' "

Those who need the Mellencamp association to accept Germano's music are likely to be alienated by "Geek the Girl." Germano, who recorded the entire record alone at home, bares herself emotionally much more than on her previous two releases.

"Sometimes it's scary, but that's just what I do," she says. "I'm trying to follow a path where you keep questioning yourself: What is special about me? . . . There is something special in everybody, but we forget, and that depresses me. If I don't bring that out in my music, then I'm wimping out."

Germano grew up in the northern Indiana town of Mishawaka, one of six children in an Italian Catholic family. Her parents were classical musicians who played Hungarian music at home and listened to opera. "I used to hate opera," says Germano, who was a James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg fan, "but now I love it. It's beautiful, funny and terrifying."

Germano's solo career began when she left the Mellencamp fold and expressed her own feelings in "On the Way Down From Moon Palace," her self-released debut. She called her own label Major Bill, for all the costs incurred making the record. She went on to release "Happiness" on Capitol in 1993 before going with the independent 4AD label this year.

As "Geek the Girl" attests, Germano's introspection can be incredibly harsh and self-punishing, causing wonder at just how she makes it from album to album without succumbing to the belief that it's all a hopeless endeavor.

"I know I'm hard on myself," admits Germano. "But it doesn't feel that way; it just feels honest. But maybe that's what's special about me--I'm self-deprecating, but doing something positive with it and relating to people who feel the same."

* Lisa Germano plays with Pale Saints and Idaho on Nov. 23 at LunaPark, 665 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, 8:30 p.m. $10. (310) 652-0611.

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