Monday, April 14, 2008

Under the Blacklight

Rilo Kiley
Under the Blacklight
Warner Brothers Records, 2007

I’m going to see Rilo Kiley this Thursday, so I thought I’d catch up on their music. All I really know about them is that Jenny Lewis is really pretty. She has alabaster skin, ginger hair, a gorgeous voice, and a potty mouth. Her musical persona reminds me of the kind of woman whose kisses taste like cigarettes and gin and tonics, whose fragile beauty is on the verge of being destroyed by age and hard living, who drinks enough to qualify her as an alcoholic, and who would feed your heart to the pitbull owned by one of her other lovers. In other words, the kind of femme fatale that has made film noir such a compelling genre for sixty-odd years.

Under The Blacklight is Rilo Kiley’s pop album, and it sounds like it was produced by the team that handles American Idol winners. It’s got a glossy sheen that is a striking contrast to their indie roots. To me it sounds like the soundtrack to a romantic comedy where an impossibly beautiful heroine is dumped by her gorgeous yet oily corporate boyfriend, which leads her to romp throughout Manhattan or Beverly Hills in stilettos in an intense bout of retail therapy, only to find true love in the arms of a chiseled, rugged mensch with tussled hair who can cook and likes kids. And at the end they kiss, the repeat the first thing they said to each other, he says something impossibly romantic, and the film ends assuming that they live happily ever after.

Like a mainstream RomCom from your favorite quirky indie director, Under the Blacklight has it’s share of embarrassing moments, namely the wretched “The Moneymaker,” and the lame, Miami Sound Machine-esque “Dejalo.” They are redeemed, however, by some truly sublime moments, like “Close Call,” the Fleetwood Mac-esque “Dreamworld,” and “Smoke Detector,” which is raunchy rock n’ roll.

Essentially, the album is the mainstream attempt by your favorite indie crew, and as such loses some of what makes them so charming in the first place, and it isn’t entirely successful at achieving the mediocrity that it shoudn’t ever have tried to duplicate in the first place.

I admire Rilo Kiley’s ability to take chances and expand their musical range. I like that they aren’t just treading the same well-worn indie country boards. However, I hope they find a sound that is more comfortable and organic with what they are. The world doesn’t really need another overproduced, dumbed down pop record, and that’s what Under the Blacklight is in it’s lesser moments.

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