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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lydia Loveless - Verlaine Shot Rimbaud Track Review

What initially interested me about this song was that it was a country song that I didn't immediately dislike. Genre-wise, this track lies somewhere between Miranda Lambert, Social Distorition, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the Paramore of All We Know is Falling. There's a sincerity, a non-commercial edge, a punk-inees, and a tendency toward a "Cowpunk" nature.

What secondarily attracted me to this song was the title: "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud." The title refers to a stormy end to a libertine and bohemian relationship that Paul Verlaine, a symbolist poet, had with fellow symbolist/pre-surrealist poet Arthur Rimbaud. After tons of drinking and drugs and fights Verlaine accosted Rimbaud and shot him in the wrist while in a drunken stupor. For Loveless, this episode of jealous rage is a good comparison to the way that she feels about the person that "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" is addressed to. Sung in the second-person,  Loveless seems to perversely enjoy the fighting and break-ups and yet still just "want to be the one you love." The message is not-dissimilar of Ariana Grande's hit "Problem." Just a bit more racy. One could really say that a lot of Loveless' music tends toward bohemian, sexual, and intoxication situations and relationships just like the confrontation of Verlaine with Rimbaud.

While the lyrics are an honest look into a sort of twisted-logic of why she loves to hate/love her significant other, the music accompanying her lyrics is just a bit too tame to really fit the dialectic of aggression and attachment that she's trying to express. The song is a bit like adult-alternative country rather than punky-alternative-country. There are distorted guitars and her voice does have a bit of grit to it, but both of these factors seem to be sacrificed on the altar of accessibility - while the accessibility factor, at least in this reviewer's view, fails to bring in a larger fan-base for Loveless. If we can carry the comparison of "Problem" and "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud"  a bit further. Whereas "Problem" has amazing production and a hook to die for "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" brings a tame indie-production to an altogether all-too-un-interesting melody. The best part of the music is by far the bridge which does lift off the ground a bit in terms of airy-ness while Loveless' voice jumps quite high - it's by far the least forgettable part of the song.

What is most positive here is the bigger picture I think. That is to say, the very fact that a country song brings a bit of a highbrow reference is a sign for the future of country music in general. Moreover, Loveless' music is incredibly honest about sex and relationships - which is itself quite refreshing in the genre of veiled sex which refuses to directly look at the Thing, to put it in Lacanian terms. Loveless' music is especially positive, if read together with quasi-folk/Alt-country bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Fleet Foxes, and Mumford and Sons. Country comes from a lineage of blues, folk, rockabilly, and honkey-Tonk: none of those roots are necessarily about beer, trucks, patriotism, a judgmental law-giving God, or "hot" women. Country, in its mainstream in the least, is a genre that was hijacked from the Left and delivered into the hands of ofuscatory late-capitalist ideology. This genre should in no way necessarily be on the side of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Mainstream country can be rescued from the hands of Rightest ideology and used for good. If anything, that is the sort of crack that the light shines through in this song - the sort of Good News that we need for the genre as a whole.

Rating: 6/10

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