CD Review: Lydia Loveless “Somewhere Else”
Somewhere Else, the new album from Columbus, OH-based fireball Lydia Loveless, is a heart-on-sleeve powerhouse of raw emotion, drenched in punk spirit and decked in cowgirl boots, all hammered home with volatile stab-and-twist anguish. Other songwriters and Nashville belles can write songs in this vein, but nobody does it better than Loveless and no band in the genre embraces the ragged edges and high-watt voltage as feverishly as Loveless’ band (Todd May on guitar/vocals, Ben Lamb on bass, Nick German on drums) does here. This is the soul of Patsy Cline reincarnated with a 21st century lust for romance and meaning, backed by a band that can snarls like The Replacements and sways like vintage Loretta Lynn.
Loveless channels an urgency throughout Somewhere Else that is a rare treat in today’s music landscape. Hers is this most impassioned delivery I’ve heard in years, and she swings her aching heart around like a sledgehammer aiming to buckle knees and flood eyes. Somewhere Else is, indisputably, my favorite album so far in 2014, and it’s probably my favorite record of the past several years.
Loveless mines stark emotional terrain from front to back: loneliness, depression, post-breakup confusion, and she engages the turmoil with conflicting emotions that ring true to the spectrum of human experience that always seems to come to life in the goings-on between men and women who fall in or out of love ad nauseam.
“Really Wanna See You” sets the pace with Loveless recounting her penchant to dial a now-married ex-lover after doing a line of blow at a party, once the tears start coming to her eyes. It’s her lyrical precision and the band’s uncorked powder-keg of ballast here and on the nine songs that follow that make Somewhere Else essential listening.
“Wine Lips” rides a chunking bass groove and slick guitar line that arise straight out of the classic Lucinda Williams territory of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, all the while Loveless wonders, “Why don’t you smile at me like that no more? Can’t you see that I’m on fire?” Dreaming of kissing her lover’s drunken lips, she pleads, “That’s all I really want to do / is be someone you could talk to…but I went too far like I always do.”
She follows up previous album Indestructible Machine’s “Steve Earle” with another country legend-titled heartbreaker in “Chris Isaak,” a rearview-gazing belter in which Loveless sings, “When I was 17, I’d follow you around with my head jammed way up your ass / Oh, what I wouldn’t give to conjure up energy like that.” Her answer to the concern of “What the hell was I waiting for? What the hell was I hoping for?” comes only after hearing an old Chris Isaak tune on the radio, telling her that her guy still loves her if he’s still the same as he always was.
But, on “Chris Isaak” and throughout Somewhere Else, Loveless is torn in two about what she wants in this moment and the future. The title track is perhaps the most evocative reading of that confusion. Singing like a dead ringer for Rumours-era Stevie Nicks, Loveless laments, “I say I wanna leave / Then, I say you’re all I need / Well, I don’t wanna be with anybody at all / I just wanna be somewhere else tonight.” It’s a kind of disconnect that could infect anybody, but it comes across like a flawless dog-tag inscription for a specific brand of millennial romantics, whether single, divorced or, sadly, married.
It’s that relatable sadness and fearlessness in her storytelling that allows Loveless to be a young songwriter not only to watch in the near future, but to champion and hold dearly as a testament to red-blooded living in the moment in pursuit of real love, human lust, and a comfortable place in the world. Each of those facets boil at the surface of these songs.
“Head” taps into lust with doses of loneliness in a thrillingly unapologetic rock and roll capsule. Going to bed alone and conjuring the sadness of moments passed, Loveless explicitly dreams, “Don’t stop getting in my bed / Well, honey, don’t stop getting undressed / Don’t stop getting in my bed / Well, honey, don’t stop giving me head,” after falling asleep with her ex-lover’s old records on.
“Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” is a knockout of heated romanticism that finds Loveless using the true tale of the poet Verlaine shooting fellow poet Rimbaud “because he loved him so” as inspiration for the contentious love she longs for with her mate. “I just like you so much better when we’re coming to blows,” Loveless wails, “I just wanna know I’m the one who makes you write that shit…I just wanna be the one you love.”
The acoustic slow-burner “Everything’s Gone” is a frail fury of Loveless struggling with the progress taking her hometown by storm, wondering, “By the time I get back, will it be all gone? Lord, everything’s gone.” Her cathartic answer to the changing tide and world of confusion, of course, is, “I’m gonna go find a rich man’s home and burn it down,” when what she really desires is to find “a man who’ll put it down and set his life on fire.”
The thematic bright spot of the album is also its last words in the damn-them-all optimism of “They Don’t Know,” a longtime lovers’ duet and cover of Kirsty MacColl, that goes, “I don’t listen to the guys who say you’re bad for me and I should turn you away / Because they don’t know about us / They’ve never heard of love.” Whether staying together will be the right answer in the end is a festering question mark on Somewhere Else (isn’t it always?), but the rebellious hope that shines through feels both true to the nine songs that came before and serves as a welcome breath of fresh air for an album that rips into heartbreak with abandon like a Midwestern twister through a trailer park.
Somewhere Else is a record to throw on the stereo and turn up loud with a heart open to all the pain, sex, dreams and confusion that is the price tag for chasing love while getting older. It’s a rough, bravely intimate, and hard-hitting exercise in country music and impure rock and roll as, one can only hope, they should always be played.
Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else is available now via Bloodshot Records.
Justin is a featured contributor to No Depression, and he resides on the outskirts of Indianapolis in Noblesville, Indiana. He writes his own music blog Division St. Harmony (@DivisnStHarmony), is a freelance music journalist for NUVO alt-weekly in Indianapolis, has been a senior contributor to The Silver Tongue and Laundromatinee, and has written for Aux.Out. on Consequence of Sound.
Justin has an affinity for writing and music that is both rich in head and heart. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @clashrebel & @DivisnStHarmony and on Facebook.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing!