Review: Lydia Loveless – REAL
National Music Reviews
Lydia Loveless = Lindi Ortega + Maria Mckee / Lone Justice
Modern country is so watered down with pop-sugar and faux-rebel anthems that its sound has regressed into nothing more than the sound of very bad Def Leppard cover bands. What country music needs is punk rock—always has. Johnny Cash understood that. All you need to do is listen to At Folsom Prison. It was the blueprint for the true American songbook. The album has teeth—and it bites.
On REAL, Lydia Loveless has that same kind of bite. Loveless is a Midwestern girl that brings her troubadour straight out of the heartland. She has a Midwestern songwriting style that leans towards that of The Replacements’. Loveless is like a female Paul Westerberg in dusty clothes and thrift store cowboy boots. Loveless proves this comparison on “Midwestern Guys.” Loveless sings, “Tell me all about ’83 / That was a long time ago, well you can sure say that again to me / All the lives lost to Natty Light in a tree / You played Pyromania until she got down on her knees / Between your thighs / Oh, you Midwestern guys.”
Loveless never lets up. She injects the anger and immediacy of punk straight into the lonely heart that haunts the American soul: the love and longing that makes us do stupid things. The track “European” gives us one of those such characters: “There’s a light on in your attic. / I can see it / And it flashes for a dirty voyeur like me / There’s a heartbeat on the air tonight, I hear it / Whispering beat, beat, beat / What’s it gonna take for you to let me inside? / I’m standing on the lawn and the grass is on fire.” You could scrap this entire review and replace it with Loveless’ lyrics—they are that good, and well worth the read. Loveless tackles other matters of the heart on this record: love lost (“Real”); loneliness (“Bilbao”) and the great beyond (“Heaven”). She also finds a way to compare sex to a dairy product: “All at once you say / “It was fun but it must not be real because now you’re done” / but so what if that’s all it was? / Love turns into lust and milk turns into clumps.”
This album rolls out at you with a little bit of twang, a whole lot of precision and an attitude that’s hard to ignore. Some may call it a little in your face and punk rock, others sad and lonely reflections from the Western world. Either way, this album is all Lydia Loveless. She has put together a fully loaded and finely tuned band that moves the funhouse of REAL down the highway, but any way you want to look at it, this suicide machine is Loveless’ ride. She adds to the Great American Songbook, and her stories belong forever within its pages.
On the album cover for REAL, Loveless sits alone in an alley on a crate, holding a coffee mug in one hand and a cigarette in the other, a small Fez hat sitting awkwardly on her head. She has a “Fuck You” stare, supporting an “I don’t give a fuck if you buy this record” pose. She bleeds badass and lets you know it. It’s perfect. Lydia Loveless is as REAL as it gets—buy this record! –Russ Holsten