September 29, 2008
by Jordan Anne Karnes

New Flavours

Jenny Lewis: Acid Tongue

Warner Bros. | Sep 2008

I hate to be the one scrambling to keep an artist in the same old box, always pointing to the previous record with furrowed brow, sighing, “can’t you just do that again?”  I like to think of albums as frames on a living graph: marks of progression, but not necessarily in linear or hierarchical order. Like one of those brightly colored toys usually found in the waiting room of a children’s dentist office next to copies of Highlights magazine and a few bruised Etch-a-Sketches—those geo-sort toys that expand and retract, their real shape always defined by flexibility and range. That is, albums are a part of the overall complexion of an artist and shouldn’t be awaited with an end-of-times anticipation.

With that, I announce that LA’s favorite Wilderness Girl is at it again. Granted, Jenny Lewis long ago traded in her troop for Rilo Kiley, and even temporarily traded that troop for Rabbit Fur Coat—again, last Tuesday Lewis presented her second solo album, Acid Tongue.

Acid Tongue is (forgive me for treading on the obvious), well, just like it sounds. It’s rough around the edges. Whereas Rabbit Fur Coat was robust with waterslide vocals (a grace de The Watson Twins), Lewis’ charm is not  found in the same old places. She’s still as sardonic as ever, but the gospel chime and chorus has evolved into the brazen brass of a honky tonk.

Acid Tongue features songs that are playful and rowdy, accompanied by thumping rockabilly bass and steel guitar. Lewis’ lyrics are a bit more character-driven (as opposed to her autobiographical tell-tale songwriting past) with repetitive choruses that fit into a bluesy format. Yet, her wording is still clever and her delivery, at times, piercing. The album witnesses Lewis expanding in new directions, with some octaves hitting truer than others. In “Bad Man’s World”—whose chorus seems to ironically echo James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” –Lewis moves from a scratchy soulfulness, to a ‘70’s style rainbow-layered bridge. Sung above a stock of well-arranged strings, soft-snared drums, and velvety organs, the product is seductive and trance-like.

“The Next Messiah” is a four-part jam that moves from a buzzing guitar in “the mighty, mighty meadow”, to the funk of an Earth, Wind, and Fire bass line—then to a dogged call and response duet and well-harmonized pleas of “I want to tell you I love you”—and finally, with an accelerated beat and a lick of twang, loops back to the beginning. It’s an all-around interesting tune that I imagine would be a hell of a treat performed live. (Which, if you San Diegans play your cards right, could be realized as Lewis performs at UCSD on November 1st).

I’m tempted to say something corny and awful, along the lines of how Acid Tongue won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but I’m much too cool for that grandparental genre of humor. Instead, I’ll leave you to listen.

Acid Tongue

Tags: jenny lewis, acid tongue, UCSD, troop beverly hills, new flavours

1 Comment

Even though I was already planning on purchasing this album, this review makes it a more urgent task in my mind. Plus, I loved the references to Troop Beverly Hills, one of my favorite Jenny Lewis films.
Katie O made this post on 9/30/2008 at 2:16 pm

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