Amy Rigby's fifth album is Little Fugutives, featuring Rigby's retro-flavored rock and fine wit on display throughout. The key moment on the album comes during the last 20 seconds of the first single "Dancing with Joey Ramone" when the '60s pop-rock arrangement of the song gives way to a shouted "1-2-3-4!" and a rave-up Ramones coda that sounds like Johnny Ramone floated into Rigby's recording studio to help out. The poignancy of the song's lyrics, of the late punk rock legend returning to dance with Rigby to nostalgia-steeped rock 'n' roll classics, contrasts with its musical punchline. The wistfulness of the lyrics and the humor of the finale play off, and strengthen, each other.
That sums up Little Fugutives overall. The album's first song is "Like Rasputin," Rigby begins with spoken lines about Russian history's "mad monk" ("In 1916, he took a bullet to the head/They all thought that he was dead, but he suprised them"), and then turns what sounds like a whimsical start into a confessional turn ("In 1981, I withstood similar attack/I got hit but I came back, and it keeps happening"). The song's narrator continues a string of deadpan comparisons between herself and Rasputin, alternating between the dry humor and inspirational tones with a line between them so fine you're not sure exactly where it is.
Rigby adds more of a satirical bite on her very successful evisceration of "Needy Men" in the song of the same name. "Needy men have a yen for making a hen out of a dove," she sings. "Never got their mother's love, so they want yours, of course."
And then, there's gentler fare like "The Trouble With Jeanie"—Jeanie is the song narrator's new significant other who is simply too nice to hate. As the perplexed narrator sings, "I must admit, I don't know how I'm supposed to act/She's hugging me instead of stabbing my back."
Musically, Rigby uses a pot pourri of retro sounds to liven up the party. There's the the baroque-pop harpsichord chiming in "The Trouble with Jeanie," "Year of the Fling" adds some Esquivel-tinged "baba-ba" vocals, and "So You Know Now" uses some tasty Beatlesesque backwards guitar.
Amy Rigby is strongly entertaining even at her low moments, but Little Fugitives has very little in the way of low moments. This is smart pop-rock for people who know, in equal amounts, the sting of romantic angst as well as the thrill of rock 'n' roll history.