Chilling Chamber Pop from Lorraine Leckie and Anthony Haden-Guest
Lorraine Leckie made a name for herself as the leader of a snarling, psychedelically inclined dark Americana rock band that she calls Her Demons. Then a couple of years ago, she put out a tersely creepy solo acoustic album, Martini Eyes. Maintaining the same kind of low-key menace, her latest album, Rudely Interrupted finds her collaborating with veteran journalist and witty social critic Anthony Haden-Guest. Here she sets his coldly sardonic, pun-infused, frequently scathing lyrics to alternately glimmering and gloomy chamber pop from the Demons: Hugh Pool on lead guitar, George Jackson on bass and the Smooth Maria’s Matt Kanelos on piano (fresh off a similarly dark collaboration, Carol Lipnik’s Ghosts in the Ocean).
Although he’s lived on the fringes – and sometimes in the center – of the celebrity world, Haden-Guest has nothing but contempt for it. Usually there’s humor in that, but also rage, notably on the album’s darkest song, Everywhere Man, a grimly quiet account of a party-crashing serial killer. The title track is more characteristic of the kind of wit here: “I burn harder than Paris, is Kim still here?…hello, I just joined the Stupid Club,” Leckie sings with just the wisp of a snarl against an elegantly brooding web of guitars, piano and cello.
Leckie takes Haden-Guest’s sardonic Little Miss X (possibly about Lady Gag or someone similar) and makes it sinister, Kanelos’ ghostly ragtime adding a sepulchral edge. This ingenue gets her fifteen minutes and then wants more – “Now she’s reading Rumi, and channeling Diana.” One of the most gently captivating melodies Leckie’s ever written, the sad nocturne Happy City is not exactly that: Leckie’s bittersweet piano is simple yet richly evocative. Kanelos’ impressionist upper-register chords against Pool’s washes of lapsteel give Leckie a moody backdrop for Bliss, a withering portrait of a high society couple gone down the tubes. And Formerly Fairly Famous, though the shortest and most minimal of the songs here, might be the most caustic: “I can’t remember your name, my mum kept all the magazines,” the unimpressed celebrity spotter muses.
The next song is Like Camelot. With a martial beat and a big crescendo at the end, it’s unexpectedly nostalgic. Haden-Guest’s only appearance on the album comes on Goodbye to All This, a sarcastically apocalyptic poem set to spacious solo piano – and as he insinuates, what he’d really rather say goodbye to is “Damian’s shark and the Jeff Koons bunny.” The album ends with Some Things I Know, a gently triumphant, unrepentant party animal’s anthem: he’s not ready to slow down yet. There’s only one miss on the album, and the title of that one pretty much says it all: it’s an attempt at harder rock than the rest of the songs and it’s out of place in this otherwise disarmingly beautiful, chilling collection, easily one of the best of 2012. Leckie’s at the Mercury Lounge on Nov 12, with the fearlessly intense Molly Ruth opening at 7:30 PM.