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Barbara Manning might be the only musician that Pavement and Roches fans can get behind with equal enthusiasm. She can write a great singer-songwriter-y confessional like “Talk All Night” or “Someone Wants You Dead” but strip it of cloying lyrical junk; she was a product of the Bay Area’s indie-rock scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but her lo-fi aesthetic was never off-putting. In fact, part of the pleasure of listening to her records is the casual way she’d toss off a mash note to the Fall, or use a pair of scissors as a percussion instrument.
Which gets us to Super Scissors, a new box set that collects remastered versions of Manning’s excellent first two solo albums, 1988’s Lately I Keep Scissors and 1992’s One Perfect Green Blanket, and adds in a batch of demos, live tracks, alternate versions, and radio chats (including one which she ends by exhorting her listeners to “keep your pecker up!”). The booklet includes appreciations from a host of musicians, including New Zealanders Graeme Downes, Robert Scott, and David Kilgour—-a few of her biggest influences. A lot of female singer-songwriters from Liz Phair to Laura Veirs owe Manning a debt, which make these records more than a Gen X snapshot.