If you don’t know about Lene Lovich, you should. She’s the only artist to successfully combine the ideas of the Futurist school with rock and roll, and on top of that, she succeeded where Yoko Ono failed, in making her voice an abstract musical element.
For those not in the know, the Futurist school of art and composition sought to combine the ideas powering the industrial revolution (efficiency, mass production, interchangeable parts) with artistic expression, and there are a few symphonies kicking around from the 20’s that are the fruits of their efforts. Where they went wrong was choosing the superficial aspects of industry noise, heat, dirt over the fundamental ideas at work, so their pieces are noisy and confusing. Lovich, with her songwriting partner Les Chappell and producer Roger Bechirian, makes music the way Dell makes computers: thousands of tiny interchangeable pieces all falling into place.
What’s most remarkable is that such a modernized album contains almost no sequencers at work; pure attention from the musicians is the key. And Lovich is great throughout, turning in quirky bits from her voice, like the bird-like hook of “One in a Million”. When she sticks to singing, it’s wonderful, too, with her deep alto showing varieties of expression, quavering on “Too Tender To Touch”, precision in “Home,” mania on “Telepathy.”
The weakness of the album, unfortunately, lies in the songwriting. For every terrific number turned in by Lovich and Chappell (great ones include “Home,” “Telepathy”, and “Too Tender”) there’s forced drama or an odd cover. Lovich does do great things with “I Think We’re Alone Now,” though, and her arrangement was ripped off almost note-for-note by Tiffany a decade later. Nick Lowe’s “Tonight” remains pretty weak, but Lovich’s sax riff transcends the dumb lyric and obvious melody to lend a touch of Gothic mystery.
Despite its shortcomings, Stateless is a masterpiece of sonic planning, and a conceptual feat worthy of awe.
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