Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Record Review: Laura Imbruglia

I’ve been waiting for the last month or so for a package from Australia. I got it last week, and I have spent the time since listening to the self titled LP from Laura Imbruglia. I heard one of the tracks from the record while listening to Triple J, the Aussie youth radio station, and was compelled to check out her myspace page. After a few listens to the songs on her page I jumped at the chance to by her record, albeit from a record store in Oz. So I had to wait. The record was worth the wait. It is a different, and willful piece of music. Imbruglia is the younger sister of a pop star and so it is nice that she hasn’t tried to emulate Natalie or ride her coat tails. Progressive Broadcasting Service out of Australia has a standard Q & A that Laura filled out and she didn’t mention her sister once.

I have some experience with this and I can tell you when a younger sibling is trying to milk the older one’s clout they find a way to mention them. I was working as an MC at a club while I was in college and we had a band called Cole on stage one night. I was going to be having this band on my live music radio show “Greazy Tony’s House of Homegrowns” so I wanted to get to know these fellows before the show. I sat down with Adam Kowalczyk the lead singer, and brother of Live’s singer Ed Kowalczyk, to try and get to know him a bit. Being as the club was in York Pennsylvania, about 90% of the people in the place already knew that Adam was Ed’s brother and if I remember correctly Live’s Bass player Pat Dahlheimer’s little bro was also in Cole. So, long story short (too late) Adam says to me that he doesn’t want me to mention Ed, or Live when I intro the band, or ask them about it when I interview them the next week for the college radio station. He says they want to make it on their own, and I really respected them for that. That respect lasted about 90 minuets until Adam stepped to the mic and said ‘this is a song my brother wrote’ and the whole group jumped into their rendition of “Lightning Crashes.” Being as this was late 1995 there were only about 10 people in York County who didn’t know this song, or that it was by local boys: Live. Pathetic, but I’ve yet to see Laura Imbruglia play up her big time sister. In all the interviews I have read, she seems to get flustered when it is brought up, and as best as one can tell it seems genuine.

Genuine is a good word to describe Laura’s music too. Her lyrics are quirky yet imaginative and come across as honest and well planed to evoke a response. She isn’t trying to wow you with existential drivel or political statements but she has something to say. When asked by the PBS Q & A who her influences were, in music and life she had an interesting group. “Queen, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Stanley Kubrick and the film/writing team of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy… I love all of these people for not only their grasp and execution of their respective arts but for all being brave, revolutionary and pioneering. They all took new approaches to their art and basically did/do what pleases and inspires them and not necessarily the mainstream, critics, labels, film studios, etc.” I think that speaks for itself.

The first song on the record that jumped out at me was “Surly”, the second track. The music in the song is classic Indie rock with a great little piano line. It’ a call and response format with the back ground singers saying “you’re far too surly” and her responding “it picks me up to put you down” and “Why would I smile when I can frown.” Imbruglia’s lyrics are funny and pointed. “You can no longer blame you character flaws on inheritance, I’ve met you parents and so I know these flaws are yours alone. Your awful parents have their own.”

Other tracks range from indie rock like “It’s Getting Worse” to 70’s pop revival on “My Opus.” The first track I heard on Triple J was “My Dream of a Magical Washing Machine” which starts with prominent bass line and describes Laura’s dream that her Maytag could also play tunes. “Instead of swishy noises, I could listen to the Pet Shop Boys” and “This jukebox had every song you could ever want, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts” referencing a big time 80’s group and a side project of Rusty Crow. It is a fun song, and would be easy to 80’s dance to, if you aren’t self conscious about that type of thing.

My favorite song so far after a dozen or so listens is “Lettuce and Anarchists” which features a driving three chord guitar and a lot of symbols in a manic pace. The lyrics of this song describe a duo of guys that exist on the campus of every college. Luke and Aaron are “the best of friends, but I’m sure they are also gay lovers.” Her descriptions of each of them are hilariously close to two guys of this ilk that were on campus when I was a student.

“Luke is a straight edge punk, which means he doesn’t do drugs. Or smoke or drink or anything fun, but he’s not a Christian, thank god, so he can have all the sex that he damn wants. With lots of different people, yeah he’s a slut. But he has got a ‘primary’ partner too, and that’s a quote.” Who didn’t know the “open relationship” guy who felt that the strictures of a relationship were just a societal invention to keep us from expressing our sexual freedom?

“And as for Aaron, he’s the most devoted vegan I’ve ever seen. He won’t even eat honey cause the bees make it for their baby bees and not for us. He’s really sweat but, I just wish he’s wear deodorant sometimes. But he’s too scared because the companies could be lying when they say they don’t test on animals. Every one also knew that couldn’t use or eat anything involved with animals. They only ate tofu and veggies but still were chunky somehow and reeked of BO. I always found it funny that they all had a justification for their leather doc’s or the old second hand leather coat.

Laura Imbruglia brings her description of these two principled nare-do-wells to another level with the line “don’t offer them McDonalds unless you want a kick in the head. They’ll tell you that Ronald is the reason Che Guevara’s dead” Perfect. It is good work out of Laura and I recommend the record to you.

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