Sunday, January 10, 2021

CD Odyssey Disc 1439: Lydia Loveless

The NFL playoffs have started! My beloved Dolphins fell just short of qualifying, but I love football so much I’m watching anyway – game on pause while I get this posted. I’m also a music fan, so let’s return to that topic, shall we?

Disc 1439 is…. Boy Crazy and Single(s)

Artist: Lydia Loveless

Year of Release: 2017 but featuring music from 2011-2015

What’s up with the Cover?  A man walks by a group of women hanging out on the street, who offer up some lascivious cat calls. He doesn’t like it and that’s the message; neither do women.

How I Came To Know It: I was on Lydia Loveless’ Bandcamp page ordering her 2020 album, “Daughter” (which is #8 on my “Best of 2020” list). While I was there, I looked through her other releases. I’d been on the look for this record for a while, so I scooped it up at the same time.

How It Stacks Up: This is another album requiring a ruling. Half of it is a re-release of her 2013 EP “Boy Crazy” and the other half is a compilation of various singles she’s put out from 2011-2015. Does that constitute a true album? Probably not, but it feels like an album, and it isn’t a best of (which would have resulted in immediate disqualification). I sent this one to Appeals Court (also me) and in a shocking 1-0 decision it came back “stackable”. It is in a tie for #2 out of 5 with another album, but since I’m not one to equivocate I’ll bump it down to 3. For now.

Ratings: 4 stars

Given that “Boy Crazy and Single(s)” featuring tracks pulled from multiple sources and projects, it has a surprising consistency of sound. Loveless has grown and adjusted her style quite a bit over the last decade, but that core of “punk country” has always remained, and here it threads a nice line through her body of work.

Loveless has a hurt in her voice you can’t manufacture. That kind of pain is either in you, or it isn’t. She belts out songs with wild abandon, firing her bootless cries to heaven hoping things will work out. In most of her songs, they don’t.

All I Know” is a song of a love that is unrequited but not unconsummated. It’s a snapshot between booty calls with a character who wants more from the relationship, but for now takes what she can get.

In “Lover’s Spat” you get to see the relationship take a turn for the worse where the booty call goes wrong:

“So don’t go running around naked by the side of the road
Honey, you look ridiculous
With that cut on your eye and your dick hanging out
Why don’t you care about us?
Well, why don’t you stay for dinner or at least a late-night snack?”

Not unlike the cover, there is some surface humour in there, but underneath a troubling exploration of domestic violence. The song’s ending may or may not involve murder. Loveless takes your mind deep within the twisted corridors and damaged psyches that lead people to dark places.

On “Come Over” Loveless’ another hard-scrabble character doubles down, opining to a married man she fancies “I don’t want to wreck your home, but could she have an accident?

It is edgy stuff, and a big part of Loveless’ appeal is her willingness to go there and say things without fear of judgment or misinterpretation. Life and love are messy (and in these songs, messy to the point of dysfunction) but that makes for good songs too.

One of the happier ‘love’ songs is “Mile High” which I think is about the memory of some quality sex, and some manual manipulation to physically approximate the experience. If you are looking for romantic expressions of true love, this is not the album for you.

The record ends with a couple of covers: Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison”. “I Would Die 4 U” is solid, but the staccato nature of the tune doesn’t mesh well with Loveless’ plaintive style. By contrast, “Alison” is a classic, taking one of rock and roll’s great love songs and removing the one thing that holds it back (Elvis Costello singing it). The Costello version is good, but Lydia Loveless makes it soar.

While the record is an amalgam of previously released content, there is no denying how great it all goes together. This is probably why the judges allowed it to count in the stack – it’s just too damned good to deny.

Best tracks: All I Know, Lover’s Spat, Boy Crazy, Mile High, Come Over, Alison

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