Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jenny Lewis [extended]

  • Rabbit Fur Coat [Team Love, 2006] A-
  • Acid Tongue [Warner Bros., 2008] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins: Rabbit Fur Coat [Team Love, 2006]
More autobiographical, less dynamic--that is, a solo debut. Fortunately, the story outlined in the blurred title tune has the virtue of setting the record straight if you take it literally, always a chancy tack. Child actress or no, the Rilo Kiley frontperson says she grew up poor. Last time she heard (or is this just narrative compression?), her mom was living in her car and putting stuff up her nose. And though the singer-with-backup music relies on formula that won't set anyone's life straight, her melodic chops--sweet as a writer, supple as a singer--put the songs across. Dramatic and literary chops also help. A-

Acid Tongue [Warner Bros., 2008]
Like so many solo statements, this one's awash in freedom of choice--string section on demand, a drummer who knows her place, arrangements jenny-rigged beneath verses that could use a groove, and three male notables, including Elvis Costello himself. Only a talent as major as Lewis could half bring it off. But note that it's Rilo Kiley's Jason Boesel whose drums set off the lazy "See Fernando," about a secular saint who'll always buy a sinner a beer, and the wicked "Carpetbaggers", about dirty-booted jezebels tricking innocent young things into helping with the groceries. With Boesel helping, the nine-minute "The Next Messiah" may well convince you that her dad or someone like him was a power-mad con artist. But he fails to deliver "Jack Killed Mom" from the skeptical scrutiny due all songs on oedipal themes since the Doors' "The End." B+