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    Brood on the tracks

    Eyelash's bleak songs are smart, passionate and brutally intimate — and part of what singer-songwriter Pascale Jean-Louis dreams might be a new women's musical movement in New York and the world.


    (Note: The band Eyelash is now known as Diabolique, as of 2005.)

    Listening to Eyelash's music, well, it doesn't exactly fill people with joy.

    Pascale Jean-Louis (vocals, bass)
    Doug Walker (guitar)
    Chris DeRosa (drums).

    Related links: Official site
    Available from

     Uses of Disorder
    Girl Like Me   MP3
    Good Lord Take Me   MP3
    Mad Girl's Love Song   MP3
    Useless   MP3
    © Eyelash. Used by permission.
    "A friend of mine, she saw me at CB's and said, 'God, I want to kill myself after listening to your songs,' " says singer-songwriter Pascale Jean-Louis in what might be a confession or a boast.

    The band's web site explains the name "Eyelash" with the observation that "Pascale Jean-Louis and the Prozac Nation Band" was too unwieldy. With influences ranging from Patti Smith to Courtney Love to Sylvia Plath, it's music to lower your self-esteem by. Depressing, yes, but it's also smart, passionate and brutally intimate.

    "Girl Like Me" (hear it on MP3) is written in the damaged voice of a woman who's baffled about why somebody is asking her out, convinced there's some mistake. The lyrics occasionally remind me of myself (okay, minus the dress):

    I'm an open book,
    You know my beauty secrets.
    I wear too much makeup.
    We didn't even meet.
    How can you love a girl like me?

    I don't own a dress,
    I don't have a nice apartment,
    My life is a mess,
    I don't know where to start.
    How can you love a girl like me?

    The band also does a haunting version of the Doors' "Unhappy Girl," slow and dark with strung-out vocals and Doug Walker's murky Knopfler-flavored guitar, that feels much truer to the lyrics than the peppily psychedelic original.

    There's also the smoldering "Good Lord Take Me" (hear it on MP3) imagining how great it would be for the popular kids if high school lasted forever and they could still sit at the "cool table" of life. Those are the kids, presumably, who have now become stockbrokers and real estate agents and housewives while Jean-Louis turns her NYU creative-writing degree into dark expressions of psychological introspection.

    Jean-Louis first got interested in music as a high school student in Corona, Queens, where her female friends helped her pick up guitar and bass. Seeing a Boston band called Dog Borne Cross with a woman bassist made a big impression on her, and they exchanged letters for a while. The woman wasn't the kind of minimally competent girl-group cutie-pie that the music business favors. "She was a real person. She didn't dress like a big star. She was just the bass player and they didn't make a big deal out of it," Jean-Louis recalls.

    That experience helped change her attitude at a time when Led Zeppelin was the school favorite, the guitar god was king, and girls were growing up intimidated. She started to see rock and roll as an open door and guitar virtuosity was not the only key.

    "A lot of women still think that way — if you want to be a musician you have to be brilliant — and you don't," she says. "Like, I think that Kristen Hersch and Ani DiFranco are brilliant guitarists — but not on male terms."

    Now that Jean-Louis has her own band, she hopes to be part of a movement that demolishes the boundaries for women in music — "to create a new template for female musicians, trying to be more important historically than commercially."

    "I was hoping Elastica and Hole would be part of something like that, but they didn't finish it," she adds. "[But] as I'm playing more and more, I'm seeing women who are doing it."

    So Eyelash goes on setting an example with Jean-Louis on bass, getting help from Walker on guitar. The two met at a downtown club's open-mike night and the combination worked, with Walker helping give shape to Jean-Louis' songs. The dark, hard-edged sound breathes extra life into the often-harsh lyrics — a style that Jean-Louis doesn't plan to change any time soon.

    "If circumstances change, maybe I'll start writing about flowers and clouds and puppies," she says. "But not now."

    MAY 8, 2002

    Reader comments on Eyelash:

  • [no subject]   from robert Keller, Sep 3, 2002

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