Two years ago Lydia Loveless released her debut album Indestructible Machine on Chicago based label Bloodshot Records â?? a home for what some call â??insurgent country' music and which others refer to as alt-country (the former sounds so much better I think). That record had a wild and free kind of approach, all of which was done using quite a frantic musical background, a blend of country and bluegrass along with a blatant disregard for convention. Despite it being invigorating, I was left struggling to keep up as the tracks seemed to careen all over the place without any cohesion. It was ok, but despite not holding my full attention there were moments that displayed the promise of a singer barely into her twenties.
The follow up, Somewhere Else, however, is a totally different kettle of fish, with much of that promise coming to fruition on a more focused and intense record displaying heartbreaks, emotional highs and lows, and everything that can come out of being in and out of relationships, including those moments of being dumb-ass crazy! Yes it's a record that is heavy on the country influence, but it's not the kind that I associate with the more commercial country music I have had the misfortune to hear on the radio or television. With Loveless I tend to believe what I hear and I get a sense of Maria McKee, both from Lone Justice and her solo work, along with Exene Cervenka, both artists who I consider to offer up their true being within their music.
"Really Wanna See You" is a strong, energetic opener, with the guitars sounding crunchy enough to add a bit of an edge, whilst the rhythm section eases the song along at a nice pace, and the keyboards bring some depth to the track as Loveless displays her vulnerabilities and even a touch of the crazy as she reminisces about a lost love. Of all the tracks here, this is the one that sticks in my mind to the point that I have frequently woken in the morning to find it immediately bouncing round my head. I am addicted to the bridge in this song when the drums snap and the guitar give a muted response before the song kicks back into life â?? it's these kinds of moments that can really make a song for me and once heard they're never forgotten.
From there on in it's the story of a woman with strength and gumption yet one who is also susceptible to the pain and loneliness that life can throw at us. It's a mixed bag musically, albeit in a good way, and includes a title track on which Loveless sounds eerily like Steve Nicks, not the only time that a bit of Fleetwood Mac comes through on the album, and it shows the versatility of this ballsy upstart. Loveless is clearly unafraid to address what she wants from life and "Head" is a prime example of her dealing with her own physical needs in a direct way.
Somewhere Else closes in style with a cover of Kirsty MacColl's 1979 non-hit (there were major problems with its physical release at the time) "They Don't Know," a song that is probably better known as being a success for Tracey Ullman in the 1980's. Loveless delivers a strong version and although she doesn't manage the same impact on the one word hook of "baby" mid-way through the song as MacColl did (on both hers and Ullman's versions), it's good to hear the song being resurrected.
This is a good album and one that is easy to get into, especially if you have even half an ear for some country-based insurgency!