Under the Blacklight

Prepare yourselves, Rilo Kiley obsessives - Under The Blacklight ain’t your alt- country/indie-rock Rilo Kiley. Jenny and the boys have made a shimmering pop record that references some of your parents favorite rock, R&B, and disco bands of the 70’s. With that knowledge tucked into your craw can you try to give this record a fair chance on its own terms? If you can you might have fun with a string of songs that will give you that warm and fuzzy guilty pleasure fix.

Opening with the lead-off single “Silver Lining” the band displays polished production that rings with shiny guitar riffs and backing vocals from The Waters, a trio that bring to mind the classic R& B girl group sound so popular in the 60’s and ‘70’s. “Close Call” follows that lead but it is at this point that the lyrics diverge from the happy pop formula – “funny thing about money for sex, you might get rich but you die by it.” By the time you hit the 3rd track you’re into “Moneymaker” with its heavy blues/rock influence. I’ll bet you can guess as to the subject matter of the song. As we greet the 4th track “Breakin’ Up” we’re under the disco ball. “Dreamland” is a dead ringer for a Buckingham/Nicks number with its boy/girl harmonies and the layered classic rock guitar arrangement. A quick glance over the additional musician list reveals a couple of names that could have acted as consultants for these songs, namely Jackson Browne and Lenny Castro.

Jenny Lewis, on the heels of her solo release Rabbit Fur Coat, continues to expand her songwriting skills and hone her deceptively clever lyrics. On the surface the subject matter seems to glide by on a happy glow of oblivion but then a wickedly sharp line whips out of the sweet melody and leaves a little red welt of sarcasm on your psyche. Perhaps lines like “Men still lie in their coffins” or “My momma is an atheist, if I stay out late she don’t get pissed” are what inspired Elvis Costello – the king of pithy wit – to praise of the band’s songwriting.

Blake Sennett, Pierre de Reeder and Jason Boesel are terrific musicians who graft their “indie-cred” onto an amalgamation of pop songs and assimilate with a troop of horn, organ and percussion players. However, Jenny Lewis is always going to grab the spotlight with her pretty-faced looks and sweet girl voice. Maybe that’s why it’s so fascinating to hear her twisted take on the underbelly of club life with it’s abundance of drugs, drink, and not-so-kosher sex. It’s probably worth noting that Under the Blacklight is Rilo Kiley’s major label debut and that may have influenced the band’s direction. But if you gotta make a pop record this is the way to do it.

WYEP Afternoon Mix host Rosemary Welsch