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Preview: Cat Power

Noah Bonaparte Pais on Chan Marshall, who comes to House of Blues Dec. 16



After all the battles — with the performance anxiety that forced her to appear with her back to befuddled audiences; the alcoholism and substance abuse that left her contemplating suicide in a Miami apartment (and her label insuring her tours); the landslide of hype that came too soon, the marionette strings she would snip from her skin and the lasting, calcifying bedrock of off-pop songs lying beneath — Chan Marshall won the war with herself. Rising to the new Sun (Matador), backed by a wind farm of synthesizers propelling her most pointed compositions since 2003 turnaround You Are Free, the human turbine known as Cat Power, forceful and feral once again at age 41, finally lets herself go with the beat. It doesn't all work, but even when she sounds like she's fighting the current (as on a sagging midsection that starts with "Real Life"), observing her so far out of her discomfort zone is as enthralling for us as it is energizing for Marshall. The album, in utero for eight years (a New York Times article from 2006 had the name and proclaimed it "finished") before establishing dual citizenship in Malibu (where Marshall lived) and Paris (home to mix-master Philippe Zdar), begins and ends with a mirrored four-pack of tracks that evoke the solar cycle of its title: first single "Ruin," an upward march of piano octaves and mounting dissatisfaction, 11-minute set piece "Nothin' But Time" loaded with magic-hour mantras sung by Marshall and shouted back at her by a male chorus. "You wanna forgive/ And not be forgotten," she tells herself. "You wanna live!" they reinforce. And just when you're not sure that will be enough, who else but Iggy Pop shows up to share with her the final word: "It's up to you to be a superhero/ It's up to you to be like nobody." That part, Marshall has down pat. Tickets $25 general admission, $75 balcony seating.

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