By: Dennis Cook
Offered up in a simple sleeve with musician credits and track titles on the back, Jenny Lewis' second solo effort, Acid Tongue (released September 9 on Warner Brothers), is strikingly different from the high gloss, new model Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac-esque music she's made in her day job with Rilo Kiley and her first solo record, Rabbit Fur Coat, where she sparred folkily with the Watson Twins. Acid Tongue is slicker than Rabbit Fur but not near as polished as Rilo Kiley's latest, Under The Blacklight. But the primary difference is the varied showcases for Lewis' voice, a potent, versatile instrument equally comfortable in girlish coos and womanly command. Her spirited phrasing and willingness to accent her natural gifts with splashes of reverb or handfuls of dust only makes her more compelling. That said, there ain't nothin' fancy about Acid Tongue; just a bunch of good tunes played with Los Angeles area friends like Chris Robinson, Zooey Deschanel and Johnathan Rice, as well as M. Ward, Elvis Costello and Imposters/Attractions skin man Pete Thomas.
She strikes a happy balance between her more commercial leanings in RK and the Topanga Canyon longing of Rabbit Fur, and the results are quite enjoyable and occasionally stunning. The extended, multifaceted hard blues rambler "The Next Messiah" is the best thing she's ever penned or executed. "Godspeed" suggests she's heard a few Petula Clark singles and decided to craft one of her own, and the campfire bittersweetness of the title cut, replete with group sung backing vocals, is just plain lovely. The gospel pushed "Jack Killed Mom" is also a lot of fun, silly yet oddly powerful. Less successful is the Steve Earle-like "Carpetbaggers," where she duets with a particularly ragged Costello, which proves clunky in almost every respect, and closer "Sing A Song" is a lil' too FM estrogen rock. At its best, Acid Tongue recalls Robinson's New Earth Mud work before the Crowes reconvened – a lil' earthy, unapologetically sugary or sour as the tune dictates, well played and ripe for repeat spins.
JamBase | Southern California
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