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Lene Lovich Song Reviews


Stateless (1978)

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Stateless

Lucky Number A+

If you only hear one Lene Lovich song, make it this pure piece of delight. If things go the way I think they will, this song will grab your attention right away and entice you right into the Lene Lovich universe and will never let go! Myself, I haven’t been able to get out of this universe since the first time I heard it last year. About the song itself, it’s an incredibly quirky dance song that’ll surely have you bouncing up and down in your seat. The fast-paced groove has great drive to it, as Lovich's high-pitched, bubbly warble wails these silly lyrics that amounts to her finding a friend. The song is also laden with utterly cluttered sound effects, which add to the already bizarre quirkiness. (Pulp fans might hear a familiar guitar line pop up in this song! Well I suppose Pulp made better use of it...)

Sleeping Beauty A

These rhythms! She really loved exploring these rhythms, and how crazily they change from that stiff beginning to that funny bit with the tuba to that dramatic chorus with the tubular bells! (Sorry for my poor descriptions, but this stuff is so weird that I have to take the lazy way out and say that it defies all description.) While these rhythmic changes and insanely creative arrangements are going on, Lovich's characteristic voice screeches and warbles throughout as though she were some sort of hostile space alien issuing commands to the the people of earth with exaggerated hand movements and very wide eyes. Wow! And I haven't mentioned that all of this is less than three minutes and very, very catchy!

Home B+

I get the feeling that Lovich's maniacal creativity ran a bit dry, but how can you blame her? Those last two songs were crazy! While this fast-paced new wave ditty is not nearly as creative as the previous two songs, it's still fun to hear. Instead of the wild arrangements, we get a tight electric organ riff, a muted guitar riff and an awesomely fast-paced bass-riff. To keep up with the spirit, Lovich is still singing in that gloriously off-kilter voice, and every once in awhile, we hear a wobbly sci-fi synthesizer sound. So there you go.

Too Tender to Touch A-

I have to wonder about this song! Why it's practically normal! It starts to be a piano led ballad that sounds right off the mainstream radio. The chorus is a little more peculiar, but even then, it sounds like an average lounge-jazz sort of thing. (Although the bouncy bass-guitar there is way too cool for lounge jazz.) Naturally, there’s a sense of quirkiness in the orchestration (notably the slowly played organ chords and the somewhat unique use of a scaling piano) but these are extremely subtle and practically ignorable. Nonetheless, the song is catchy and even somewhat heartfelt. I really enjoy that flowery piano solo in the middle! It's not quite as good as the ones strewn throughout David Bowie's Aladdin Sane, but it's close.

Say When A-

This sounds like a hoe-down that's been sped up to a crazy speed! Man, this reminds me of a song that I wrote once. ...Oh man... That said, the song I wrote sucked, and I don't think this is as incredibly inspired as these other ones. Perhaps this sounds more like Sparks instead of what Lene Lovich is, in my mind, supposed to sound like. But then again, there's nothing wrong with sounding like Sparks! (Actually doing a little research, I discovered that this wasn't actually written by her... so that explains it...) The introduction of military drums at times in this song was a great idea! Nonetheless, Lovich’s devotion to the unique in this song should not be downplayed. Yes, this song is crazy enough to be fun.

Tonight A

You know, as much as I might wish that she would only write songs as weird as “Lucky Number,” I can't help but notice the internal creepiness of these relatively straight ballads. This one in particular could probably have been a huge hit in the '50s or '60s, but the strange way Lovich performs it gives me visions of sinister aliens. I don't know who else I can say that about. Lovich’s alto warble is more restrained although she doesn’t get rid of the slightly crazed tone in her voice. The songwriting itself is enjoyable and the melody is very catchy. In the end, this is among the best songs of the album despite its lack of novelty value. (Oh, and this is a Nick Lowe cover! What do you know?)

Writing on the Wall B

This seems underwritten compared to the previous songs, but there's still a charming quality about it. I suppose it's that same quality that makes anyone listen to her in the first place! It begins with a creepy, popping organ and steady drum-beat (that I think Lovich certainly could have explored further with more complex arrangements). The chorus is a little stranger and more heavily vocal. This is an enjoyable listen though admittedly not nearly as memorable as the previous tunes.

Telepathy B+

This is another fun song with a catchy melody! This is another one of those songs that could be considered 'normal,' although there is a certain country-western/hoe-down quality to this. I really don't know how she does this... Anyway, the pacing is fairly normal. Despite the melody seeming slightly cheesy, she turns it into something fun. I dig those spaced-out synthesizers in the background!

Momentary Breakdown A-

This is another would-be normal song that is 'quirkified' by this space alien! It's at the same slower pace as the previous song, but this melody is especially catchy and thus it would be a good song if she were to sing it straight. But, yup, she doesn't sing it straight, because she is a space alien! And there's something weird about that ultra-bubbly electric organ that's keeping the groove going. This should be a theme song to the ultra-clean suburban-land that we only see in Tim Burton movies. The end is interesting as Lovich sings well above her range as the song fades out. (Fortunately, the song is mixed well so it doesn’t grate on the ears.)

One in a Million A

The beginning of the song sounds like that crazed hoe-down thing that she seems to love doing all the time, but it quickly switches to what sounds like a new wave take on traditional Jewish music. How does she do this? Anyway, the rhythm-changes that are required of such a strange idea fascinates me very much, indeed! Also, both sections of this song are incredibly catchy... Perhaps the melodies are a little dumb, but that's part of the appeal, combined with the cheesy bass-line and those faint chants of “ooooooooom” in the background. The piano solo in the middle sounds like someone was pounding elbows into the keys!

I Think We’re Alone Now A+

Ah yes, plenty of these other songs sounded like they might have been big hits from the early '60s, but this is a cover of a song that was a hit! This is a nice old melody from Tommy James & The Shondells that is interpreted weirdly by this crazy lady. The lead vocals are her usual electrocuted warble, but her back-up overdubs include creepy whispers and an ultra-high-pitch wail that I'm almost positive that she can't do anymore. The instrumentals consist of funny, wobbling synthesizers in the background, an ultra-clean rhythm section, a few fast-paced synthesizers and organs. These arrangements are so inspired that it's really no contest this is superior to the original (and that one redo that one girl named Tiffany had a hit with in the late '80s).

BONUS TRACKS:

Be Stiff A

I always think they're saying “beef stick,” but that's only because I'm usually too lazy to read the song titles. I know this is *really* saying something, but this composition has to be one of the oddest things here. There's a little bit of Roxy Music in that bouncy, poppy bit along with a few odd synthesizers and saxophones interspersed throughout. Perhaps it's not as brilliant as Roxy Music were in their heyday, but this is a crazy old three-minute ditty nonetheless. Of course, that goes without saying!

One Lonely Heart A

I don't know what it is about old French pop (ala Jacques Brel) music that always appeals to me... perhaps the French were the only ones who knew how to put real drama in music. Anyway, I bring that up, because that's the style of music that Lovich is aping here, and she's doing a peculiarly good job at it. Her vocals sound like she's half-mocking the genre, but it also has that certain dramatic edge to it that captivates me. The instrumentation is rather simple, but like everything else on here, it's something else. A pure tuba sound and acoustic guitar makes up the bulk of the instrumentation, but there's this weirdo, wavy high-pitched synthesizer going off all the time! ...Well, whatever! This is a gem, though!

Big Bird B-

This was probably an unfinished tune. It has a goofy and monotonous beat at its core with a frankly dull programmed drum and a tuba-synthesizer keeping the beat. Highly sustained sound effects and synthesizers come up in places that reminds me subtly of the ambient work in David Bowie’s and Brian Eno’s Heroes … but that’s only circumstantial, I’m sure. It didn’t seem “Big Bird” had much promise to be turned into a regular song.

I'm so lazy that I'm only going to mention that this album also includes a Japanese version of “I Think We’re Alone Now” and a Slavic version of “Lucky Number.” I suppose if you thought Lovich sounded weird in English, you can assume that she'll sound even weirder in another language. Bwah?


Flex (1979)

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Flex

Bird Song A+

Oh man, this is a gem if there ever was one. The best thing about a Lene Lovich gem is that it's going to be completely weird and unique and with a cool jerky bass-line to boot. This one has tons of personality, too, with Lovich's memorable high-pitched “bird song” beginning every verse and that army of Vikings providing back-up singing in the chorus. Plus, the melody is extremely catchy. That's the important thing, right? Yeah!! This is a monumental song.

What Will I Do Without You? A-

This doesn't quite have the charisma of the previous track, but what else does? It's not quite as distinctive, of course, but it still has a catchy melody and sports a maniacal vocal performance. Those high-pitched synthesizers whizzing throughout this gives it that B-grade sci-fi feel that she was obviously striving for!

Angels A-

I've got to wonder if anyone did camp better than Lovich. This song is wildly paced and slightly cheesy with a plethora of little sound-effects going off in the background. Indeed, this rock 'n' roll extra-terrestrial was treating us to a new wave show! That ultra-plain drum rhythm is somehow dull but it increases its camp value ... so maybe it improved it.

The Night B

I knew I wasn't going nuts! I thought it sounded familiar... It's a cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Season's Motown hit that's apparently famous enough that it sounded familiar to me. At any rate, this is good, though nowhere near the level of memorability that so many of her songs have in spades. Granted, the riff is pretty memorable, but I miss the manic energy present in all the previous songs, and there's nothing particularly special about the instrumentation. The bouncy bass-line is there, but even that seems weaker. Possibly the most damaging thing I could say about it: I think the original is much better.

You Can't Kill Me B+

Extra points for quirkiness, but I can't help feeling a little betrayed that she's trying to pawn off this mostly two-chord song at us. Sometimes when I complain about two-chord songs, I would say that they could work sometimes... But if it didn't work here, then I don't know when it would. She puts layers upon layers of spacey sound effects on top of this apparently trying to mask the two-chord badness of it. And most of the sound effects are great... Sort of space computers open the song, and it escalates into a sort of all-out Starship Troopers epic space battle.

Egghead B

Hey, this is a song about me! I wasn't going to be born for another two years, but here is the prophecy of my coming. Oh yeah! Well, despite this song hitting so close to home for me, I've got to say that I'm not wholly impressed with it. It seems an awful lot like she's trying to be weird and quirky but having an unfortunately rather boring melody and flat harmonies. The funny instrumentation does a lot to mask some of that, but I think most audiences would be able to see through that... The technology-synthesizers strewn throughout are fun to listen to, and that strangely wooden rhythm is funny, too.

Wonderful One A-

This song is also about me, but fewer people know that! This is also a fairly wonderful song, and it only takes one listen to realize that. I've got to point out that this song uses a xylophone in its texture, an instrumental choice that immediately puts it in my favor. It's also catchy and has a very delightful new wave rhythm. Seriously, nerdy dance music doesn't get much better than this. Souxsie and the Banshees? Talking Heads? ... This is of the same caliber.

Monkey Talk A-

Also good, and really, really strange. You know that's saying something considering who this is. This has a good combination between sound effects and its punchy new wave beat. A steam whistle comes out as well as some goofy, twirly synthesizers. Lovich provides a series of burps and giggles in a few opportune moments (most notably before a new, marching musical idea presented in the second half). Really fun although the melody is a tad weak.

Joan B+

I've thrown the word “cheesy” in these track reviews a number of times, but I usually meant that as a compliment. Here, I'm not sure. This song is carried out by a horn-synth heavy riff that sounds right out of a British sporting event. The rest of the song is OK with a fine melody, albeit unmemorable, and somewhat subtle use of sound effects. It's a good song, but not a great one.

The Freeze B-

Arnold Schwarzenegger! “Everybody! Chill!” ... OK, I guess that character was “Mr. Freeze,” but I thought it was “The Freeze” when I wrote that. Anyway, this a terribly weak conclusion to the album. It's an unusual piece, give it that, but it's long-drawn-out and frankly tedious to sit through. The sound-effects (i.e. the spaceship beeping noises, the helicopters, the screams in the background) are nice, but the melody isn't memorable, and the harmonies are boring. Probably the worst thing about it is the sluggish pace...

BONUS TRACKS

New Toy A+

This is one of Lovich's more fondly regarded songs, and for good reason. It's so good! ...Actually, this is a little more like she was trying to get a big new wave hit as easily as possible, because it has none of those weird sound effects and her insane burp-and-squeak-filled singing is kept fairly restrained. The synthesizers and drums (especially at the beginning) are verrrrrry '80s. But this song is still completely awesome, because the melody is incredibly catchy. The polished rhythms also keep things nicely snappy. Her army of male backup singers sound normal here, too... compare it to the Viking warrior sound they had on “Bird Song.”

The Fall A-

Ah yes... People always want me to review The Fall, and I always tell them that there's just no time! I can only spend so many hours of my life working on these confounded reviews. Well. Here it is. I'm reviewing The Fall. ...And what a crazy song this is! Needless to say I haven't been too wild over the long-drawn out sound-effects ridden compositions in the regular album, but here Lovich seems to have done it right for the most part. The sound-effects, for a start, are some really creative things. Before they were seemingly just aimless spaceship noises, but these are really weird. The thing that makes it especially likable (for me anyway) is that eternally creepy ascending chord-progression.

Details A-

Another good 'un from Lovich, which shouldn't be a big surprise considering this is one of her quirky tunes! The instrumentation is rather lush this time featuring a wide array of thick synthesizers and a piano playing a few classical-oriented arpeggios. The only problem with it is the melody, which isn't that memorable.

The Fly B-

Well, I know we're not supposed to expect too much out of the bonus tracks, but this sounds very lazy and unfinished. No vocal melody, either, which makes me wonder if she just didn't get around to it. Probably lost faith in it somewhat... It just never takes off. I do like some of its ideas, though. The bouncy new wave bass plays a cool rhythm, and the harpsichord that pops up every once in awhile is pretty cool. It just needed a melody and more dynamic development.

Trixi B

A completely harmless bit of carnival music. I don't know why, but hearing these sorts of things tend to bug me, and there's not a good reason for that. Maybe I'd rather only listen to this sort of thing when I'm at theme parks... which isn't all that often lately. I like that the organ sounds are extra bubbly. ...I don't know if anyone would care about that. OK, done.


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