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Lene Lovich at the Stereo Society
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Lene Lovich at the Stereo Society
Selected Reviews of Shadows And Dust
Lene’s Shadows And Dust album was released September 12 2005, celebrated by her classic performance at Joe’s Pub, New York City, the day before. As with her earlier efforts starting around the early eighties and launched into near-earth orbit by her impact through Stiff Records, the mainstream media hasn’t really noticed yet. While we hold our breath, we appreciate these reviews from the progressive set.
Time Out New York
Issue 519 p195, September 8-14 2005
The oddest inhabitant of the Stiff Records stable circa 1978, Detroit-born chanteuse Lene Lovich caused a stir with the theatrical pop she crafted with partner Les Chappell, but quickly faded from view. Shadows And Dust, a new release on veteran producer Mike Thorne’s Stereo Society label, reveals Lovich to be as gleefully off-kilter as ever. The album is a brilliantly giddy crush of goofy goth and rubbery funk; Chappell and Thorne also make it a sonic spectacular.
A cross between Siouxsie, the Dresden Dolls and the soundtrack to Wicked — yes, the planet needs much, much more of this. With the ’80s revival in full swing, it’s time to give this princess of Goth the credit she may have missed out on back in the Stiff Records days: “Lucky Number” was arguably the transcendent look at schmuck-class love — its implication that any dice-roll in the hay can result in finding one’s soul-mate makes it almost worth hitting the clubs to this day. Fast-forward to Shadows And Dust and Lene’s still the same Siouxsie-like space shot with the same Siouxsie-like dark-chocolate-and-yodel disaffection, but this time she’s armed with sequencers, a deepened sense of theater and one or two block-rockin beats. “Craze” starts things off with a swirl of black silk and back-of-hand-to-forehead seduction that soon escalates into a patented Elvira vs Frankenstein anti-hook. “Shape-Shifter” sets all phasers to Extra Weird in a largely successful powwow between Destiny’s Child and Spike Jones, after which the off-Broadway hysterics of “Remember” bemoan Lene’s romantic misfire du jour. In case it needs to be said, sketched-out Halloween spirits never go wanting for long — “Gothica” and “The Wicked Witch” are worth their weight in strychnine-flavored candy corn, subordinate only to the bug-eyed Andrew Lloyd Webber-style “The Insect Eater,” in which our gal turns into an earwig-gobbling Renfield before your very ears.
The easy ethnic take on Lene Lovich during the heady days of New Wave was that she was part-Serbian, leading to aged Boris & Natasha routines in media organs like me own Creem. Not that Lovich couldn’t be a Slav to fashion, as her still-smashing 1979 debut, Stateless, predicted the better aspects of the coming decade in its darkly Danubian dance tracks. But all that Serb’s-up jive neglected the fact that Lovich is also half-English in ancestry and has spent most of her life in Britain, where her birded-out vocal mannerisms, her wide-eyed dedication to animal rights and her singular costumes (her odd headgear has only grown more layered over the years, as though her brain is an irritant oyster busily trying to coat with pearl) likely enable her to blend right into her Norfolk neighbourhood.
It helps to think of Lovich as a classically English eccentric before slipping into Shadows and Dust, her first new-material album since 1990’s March, as the first few tracks, though musically respectable (as always, husband/collaborator Les Chappell and many synthesizers are aboard) have a kind of ponderous, curdled weirdness that speaks of navel-grazing out on the moonlit moors. (Either that, or maybe of Lovich listening to screeching voicemails from her longtime pal Nina Hagen, she of avant-bombast musical renown.) Shadows and Dust starts to pick up kinetic steam about midway through, in “Gothica” and “Craze,” and then “Insect Eater” really scorches the rocket cottage with Lovich’s repeated shrieks of “Earwigs in my bed at midnight!” underlined with luscious keyboard burbles. “Wicked Witch” has a cartoon-funnycar rush that suggests the beloved playing-hooky riddims of Lovich’s early songs, and it reflects quite well on the balance of this charmingly and eccentrically back-loaded album.
The Grand Goth Duchess of punk rock’s premier label, Stiff Records, Lene Lovich has returned with her first full length studio album in 15 years. In the interim, besides raising a family, she worked on film and theater projects, as well as recording the PETA anthem “Don’t Kill The Animals” with fellow Bizarro Diva, Nina Hagen.
“Shadows And Dust” is shocking in that Lovich seems not to have missed a beat. She sounds just as wonderfully strange as ever. Generally, when an artist as eccentric and enigmatic as Lovich disappears for an extended period, their return is a disappointment. Not so with Lene Lovich. This new album is as delightfully odd as the best of her music from decades ago. This Czechoslovakian princess (actually from Detroit), wears her surrealistic influences on her sleeve. You can hear traces of Brecht, DEVO and Van Der Graaf Generator in her crisply composed songs about living life happily in the shadows. This CD is a primo slab of mutant cabaret music.
Recorded at her home studio, with her longtime collaborator, husband Les Chappell playing most of the instruments, “Shadows And Dust” sounds like a fresh blast from the new wave heyday of the early 1980s. They say that the best music in the world is whatever you’re listening to when you’re between the ages of fifteen and twenty, and for me this is it. I would have worn this album out on vinyl had it existed back in the dark ages of the Reagan regime. I guess the time is right for new music to inspire non-conformists.
With song titles like “Ghost Story,” “Wicked Witch,” “Gothica” and “Insect Eater,” you can see that Lovich is still in tune with the Hot Topic crowd. “Wicked Witch,” with its driving synthesizer and Lovich’s patented operatic hiccup vocals is a standout track that recalls DEVO (at one point, her labelmates in the UK on Stiff Records). “Gothica” is a new anthem for creepy misfits everywhere. “Shape Shifter” manages to take a hip-hop beat and twist it into a perfect vehicle for Lovich’s offbeat musical magic.
If you’re a fan of Siouxsie and the Banshees, then you need to check out Lene Lovich, for the pure unadulterated sound of a woman on a wild musical mission. Siouxsie copped most of her vocal and musical style from Lovich, but she watered it down. On “Shadows And Dust” Lene Lovich has reclaimed her crown as the leading purveyor of love songs for the weird. The album can be ordered directly from The Stereo Society.
The Detroit-born, Britain-bred Lene Lovich rode high on the crest of new wave in the early ’80s, scoring the hit “Lucky Number,” and releasing three albums on Stiff Records. After her initial run, Lovich largely disappeared, reemerging briefly for a Nina Hagen duet in 1986 and an album four years later.
Now in her mid-50s, Lovich is back with her first solo album in 15 years. Working with longtime collaborator Les Chappell and producer Mike Thorne (Wire, Soft Cell), Lovich has created an album with an updated sound and a darker edge. She’s still in fine voice, but eschews the poppy new wave sound of her classic debut, Stateless, in favor of industrial-influenced keyboards that sound more like they belong in the early ’90s than 2005. That’s less a criticism than an observation, and these somewhat goth, vaguely Siouxsie-like songs work well with Lovich’s vocal range.
Lovich’s flair for drama works particularly well on two tales of lost love. On “Remember” she sings, “We agreed to dissolve, disappear, to risk all for the sake of love / I only know you didn’t show.” On “Little Rivers” she laments, “Well maybe you’re right / What’s dead deserved to die / But somehow we should have tried / Tried to believe in life.” On “Wicked Witch,” she glides along with manic glee, pausing only for a few evil laughs.
Full of titles like “Ghost Story,” “Gothica,” and “Insect Eaters,” Shadows and Dust is a dark, dramatic disc. What’s surprising is how well it works.