Monday, July 21, 2014

Luscious Jackson - Magic Hour (2013)

Luscious Jackson started out in the early '90s as an all-female group on the Beastie Boys label Grand Royal; in fact, some dubbed them "the female Beastie Boys" (ironic since drummer Kate Schellenbach was actually a member of the Beasties in their hardcore punk stage).  EPs Daughters of the Kaos and In Search of Manny hinted at potential greatness; 1994's full-album debut Natural Ingredients filled that promise, featuring the classic single "Citysong."  1996's Fever In Fever Out was a very solid followup for the quartet; 1998 saw keyboardist Vivian Trimble leaving the band for the (now) trio's highly underrated Electric Honey, which (objectively) is probably not their best album but (subjectively) might be my favorite.

And then... they just faded away.  Sure, primary songwriters Jill Cunniff and Gabby Glaser each released solo albums in 2007 (you can read the reviews here and here), but for a group that charged through the 90s (including multiple side projects), the post-LJ era seemed like it was just not happening.

Fortunately, it did happen in 2013, as Luscious Jackson released not one but TWO albums.  (The second, Baby DJ is a children's album that I will review once all of my nephews and nieces under the age of 10 listen to it.)

Right off the bat, "You and Me" is an instant classic.  It's Luscious Jackson at their best:  Schellenbach's unique beat-frantic drum styling, the contrast of Cunniff and Glaser's voices played against each other, a not-quite-rap, not-quite-dance, not-quite-indie, guitar/bass/percussive pop tour de force.  Smartly produced, first rate "kitchen sink without overwhelming" instrumentation with a beat you can dance to.  Just great.

The second song, "#1 Bum," can only be compared to XTC's "Stupidly Happy" or Big Dipper's "Lord Scrumptious":  if I could just obliterate the lyrics and pretend they were singing in Farsi, I'd be very happy.  I really wish this were about a homeless person rather than lyrics like "I got your back," "Your bum is number one," and "Where'd you get those buns buns buns buns."  I can't make this stuff up.  They even made a video for it, which, while predictably awful, is made worse by the subtitling of the lyrics.  It's like watching someone make the worst possible decision on a reality show and then beamingly brag about it.

Those are the highs and lows, all at the front of the album.  The rest of the album is rock solid, with highlights being "Are You Ready?," "Love is Alive," "Frequency," and my other favorite on the album, "We Go Back."

It's one of the most welcome comebacks of the year; I wasn't even aware of it until Ryan told me about it.  Hearing Glaser and Cunniff trading vocals, and Schellenbach's drumming style brought together again... well, it's just awesome.

CD Placement rating: I'll be skipping one song, but despite that, it's still Car iPod worthy.

- Snilch

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