Bradford Cox, the lanky frontman and curious creative force behind Deerhunter, has done it again. Upping the ante laid down by the 2007 achievement Cryptograms, Cox and Co. drop Microcastle which includes a second bonus disc - Weird Era Cont.! Though perhaps Cox's fascination for '50s and '60s pop is present and palpable, the Joey Ramones-y freak show seems to take a back seat on this rather psychedelic musical journey through reverb-heavy, post-punk, droney acid-dripping rock n' roll. Guitarist Lockett Pundt takes lead vocal responsibilities on "Agoraphobia" and bassist Josh Fauver wrote most of standout "Nothing Ever Happened." Nonetheless, the Atlanta psych-rock quintet takes giant strides with their newest sunlit noise-rock masterpiece.
I can't stop listening to Jenny Lewis. There, I said it. Do you smirk? Do you giggle? Trust me when I tell you it is new American popular folk music at its finest. Acid Tongue is an absolute delight from beginning to end (depending on the mood you're in). I do love Jenny herself; I find her painfully charming in her delivery, her sense of humor, her writing abilities and her personal style. Umm, saw her in a You Tube clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1a7XAgBNww) with a tank top and overalls. But I've been stern with Lewis and her side projects in the past with my concerns and disagreements. Here is my arguement for Acid Tongue.
Let's begin with Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley's latest LP. Yup, some songs sucked. Real, real bad. "Dejalo"? "Smoke Detector"? I'd listen to it on the way to work from Red Hook to Poughkeepsie and, in the privacy of my enclosed space, let out an audible variation of "NOOOO!!!!" when those tracks arrived to my ears. But "Silver Lining," "Close Call" and "Give a Little Love" were kind of rad, strong additions to a long list of Rilo Kiley hits that will stand on their own over time.
Concerning Rabbit Fur Coat, well, I'm a convert. There are some serious boot-stopmin' Americana jams on her first solo record and her collaboration with the Watson Twins still sometimes surprises me with its perfectness. Sometimes Jenny's voice just sounds that much better with a few other whispery voices joining her on choruses and ends of lines (like in the "Acid Tongue" clip above). Though some of the lyrics may have been a little overwrought at times, she came into a class of women in rock with that record and now, with this one, she's dared to step into the ring with other, thoughtful indie rocking women like PJ Harvey, Neko Case, Feist, Joanna Newsom, and dare I say, Emmylou Harris and Patti Smth?
I like the line that AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine opened up his Acid Tongue review with: "Somewhere along the way, Jenny Lewis decided that she wasn't an indie rocker but that she was a lady of the canyon, a singer/songwritre spinning stories on her own." It's so fitting, some of these songs feel destined for campfires, ranches, riversides and sun-baked porches. Of couse, she'd have a four-piece band and amps behind her, but including all that, her sound would fit right in. LIke a chameleon, even.
Different tracks stand out for different reason. She went way long with an amazing multi-tempoed "The Next Messiah" clocking in at just under nine minutes. But before that, the opening two tracks also set the tone for a new kind of Jenny Lewis record, one that exudes artistry, talent, poise, power and gusto. On the "Black Sand," Lewis met a beautiful boy who took her away and was never the same, on the black sand walked "a mother unwed with a scar down her chest, and on the black sand she dreams she's on her knees, being pushed by the wind to her hands. And that's really all there is to this song, just beautifully delivered and timed to a guitar part, a perfect opening to this record.
"The Next Messiah" and deeper into the record's "Carpetbaggers" are the records all out traditionally big-sounding California rock with hints of good Eagles, Tom Petty, and Jackson Browne. Though Elvis Costello has managed to weasel his way into Jenny's close, artistic circle of friends, his brief appearance on "Carpetbaggers" doesn't completely ruin the song for me (not the case for certain others). If you listen to this song the way I have for the past few weeks, you will be fighting off the phrases: "I'm a carpetbagger, baby / I'm coming to your town / I'm going to treat you kind / I'm going to rob you blind / I'll smile all the time / Whoa, yeah / Whoa, yeah." Seriously, the whole thing.
Though, this record does give us Jenny in a delightfully welcome turn: she appears as an aimless, hard-rockin', boozin', acid-trippin' road-tripper with her hobo bag and guitar as her only friend, ready and willing to throw down a rip-roarin rock show to any bar and saloon along the way kind enough to put her and her band up and pay for their share of bourbon. But then there's the later, tenderer part of the night, up in her room after all the liquor's been drank, the shouting over the crowd, the stolen cigarettes and all the blues of past break-ups and future heartaches strummed away, when all she's wearing is a billowy, white nightgown and she sits you down to chirp out "Sing a Song for Them," "Trying My Best to Love You," and "Bad Man's World."
It's on these gems that you feel like Jenny has put something out simply because she believes in it. She hasn't not put this on a disc so that you can buy it and she can buy a fancy car in L.A. She has written a gritty, personal, inspired rock record in the late 2000s that somehow manages to seem like it's striding into the forefront of indie rock womanhood, and yet, at the same time, she's just made this little thing and wants you to have a listen. "What do you think?" she'd shamefully utter with her hands wrapped up in her dress, her knees together and her flats a foot and a half apart on the living room floor. You wouldn't be able to wipe that wine-colored, uncontrollable smile off your face and say, "You did it."
An upstate country boy who was Johnny HighSchool, went to an expensive liberal arts college and took about 20 English classes, went to graduate school in Oregon for a couple years then came back to the Empire state and tried to pass as a city boy for a minute. Now I'm Philly and I love it.