Thursday, 3 December 2015

Lene Lovich - Stateless (1978)

I bought Flex when it came out, and it probably numbered somewhere amongst the first ten or possibly twenty albums I owned; and then it went soon after during one of my own very few nights of the long playing knives, either for failing to be sufficiently punky or not featuring enough synthesisers, or some other ludicrous reason which could only ever make sense to a sixteen-year old. I bought it again more recently, and mainly prompted by my having stumbled across a somewhat knackered copy of Stateless in a junk shop, a purchase in turn inspired by the realisation that Lucky Number is a fucking cracker of a song whichever way you look at it.

More recently in some neglected corner of the internet I described Lene Lovich as Devo with tits, immediately invoking the ire of someone failing to recognise this for the compliment it was intended to be; although on close inspection it's true that Devo with tits probably doesn't really cover it. Stateless has some of that same mutant angularity which characterised Devo at the time, filtered through a cabaret sensibility, the melodrama of yer Brechts and yer Weills and those guys - gothy jazz rather than retrofuturism. Listening to this for the first time with all of those years having stacked up since its release, it sounds briefly like the epitomy of new wave - skinny ties, tight dry production, and what's obviously a sound honed by a full band during a succession of live dates - but it turns weird pretty quickly, rising above whatever expectations one might have of something released on Stiff in 1978. It's probably something to do with the four note choral tourettes of the bridge of Lucky Number. It still sounds weird and upsetting even now. Most of the tracks on this record do the same thing to greater or lesser degrees, freaking you out a bit before proving relatively friendly. You'd happily let Mrs. Lovich have a cup of sugar, but there's no way she's coming in for a cup of neighbourly tea because there's just no telling what would happen - I mean she seems pleasant enough, but no-one knows where the fuck she came from, and then you have those twenty foot pigtails...

Yet Stateless nevertheless does what it does without any obviously scary faces pulled, and we even get I Think We're Alone Now before Tiffany got hold of it. Perhaps oddly, in terms of instrumentation and general mood, I can imagine Bowie singing on this, and had he done so it would have been remembered as a classic of such stature as to necessitate punching those who disagree in the face; but it really wouldn't have been as good, and so it's ended up as one of those albums known mainly to people who know the album, and that's apparently the story in full.

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