Perhaps the most bizarre double-barreled gift I ever received was back in the summer of ’93 while I was lying in an intensive-care unit suffering from a slight case of legoinellosis. It was a copy of the third issue of the infamous sociopathic print publication Answer Me! and a CD of the Julianna Hatfield 3’s Become What You Are. The latter was released on Aug. 3, 1993.

Quite a combo meal, don’t you think?

As I sat in my hospital bed, I perused the listings of suicides and mass murders in Answer Me! while wondering if I’d live to see another day. Soon after, I took in Hatfield’s second full-length since the break-up of her Boston-based dream-pop band, the Blake Babies, via a state-of-the-art portable CD player. Even in my woozy, legally drugged-up state, it was fairly obvious the majority of the material had been grunged up for the flannel-flying alterna-crowd, but it didn’t stop Hatfield’s peculiar pop sensibilities from shining throughout the duration of the disc. Former Bullet LaVolta drummer Todd Phillips certainly kept things angular on the opening "Supermodel," but it’s the second tune on the album that made people sit up and take notice of Hatfield.

Even all these years after the fact, you can still hear why "My Sister" captured ears the way it did and went to No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart that summer. Infectiously simple, with a killer chorus that finds Hatfield dropping the names of college rockers of yore such as the Violent Femmes and the Del Fuegos, it's irresistible. From there on in, we have the driving chirp of "This Is the Sound," the grungy "Dame With a Rod," the ethereal "Feelin’ Massachusetts" and the slow and sultry closer, "I Got No Idols." All in all, a perfect pop record.

Become What You Are stands among one of the finer breakout full-lengths to come out of the post-grunge era of the early '90s. The album launched Hatfield into a cushy position as a cult artist, and that has allowed her to release a string of excellent full-lengths on a variety of labels throughout the years. In 2008, she even dropped a memoir, When I Grow Up. Not a bad place to be for a girl from the mid-coast of Maine.

Become What You Are remains a great batch of affecting and intoxicating songs. Listening to it sans the life-threatening disease makes it even better.

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