album review: lydia loveless – somewhere else

bad machine tour: lydia loveless

If Lydia Loveless’s 2011 Indestructible Machine was a 38 minute punch of broken hearted and bitter but not down or out cowpunk, 2013’s Somewhere Else starts with a blast of guitars that can’t be mistaken for anything but rock and roll. “Really Wanna See You” has a typical Loveless theme: an ex who broke her heart, plus all the ways she fucked it up herself; a Lydia Loveless love song is punishment for everyone involved, the kind of relationship that might end in fists and might end in tears and might end in a really happy marriage. “Really Wanna See You” finishes off with a broken I just thought I would call to see how you were doing over a stuttering drum beat and nothing else, and it’s a perfect opener for 42 minutes of furious, broken hearted and bitter but not down or out rock and roll, all served up with Loveless’s twang and ache of a voice.

When I saw “Chris Isaak” listed as a song title on this record, I hoped we would get something as delicious as “Steve Earle”; Loveless doesn’t fail. The track has the mournful ache of a Chris Isaak song, but it’s more grown up that “Steve Earle” — it’s about her own real relationship with music, and growing up, and it’s beautiful and sad: but what the hell was I hoping for / and what the hell was I waiting for. She follows it with another question in the opening of “To Love Somebody”: what is it to love somebody / or at least to that they’ll be around. Somewhere Else is, in parts, what you expect as a follow up to Indestructible Machine: a look at what it means to actually love and lose someone, what it means to have a relationship as an adult with someone.

What it means to want someone all the time.

“Hurts So Bad” is a bluesy slink of guitar and a broken heart, but Loveless says it’s all that I wanted from you. An admission that love sucks just as hard as a grown up as it does as a teenager, but she follows it up with “Head”, a song that’s openly about gettin’ it on. More songs about oral sex, I say. It’s filthy and the same tenor of blues and rock and roll as “Hurts So Bad”, a pair about the worst and (maybe) the best of relationships. Don’t stop, get in my bed, Loveless sings, and that’s a grown up singing, not the broken hearted 21 years old on Indestructible Machine; it’s dirty and delicious.

“Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” opens quiet, the idea that love drives people to anger; I just like it better when we’re coming to blows, Loveless sings in the rumbling electric verse that follows. Verlaine shot Rimbaud because he loved him so / And that’s how I want to go, the chorus says, and she brags I’m the one who makes you write that shit. It’s a beautiful song, plaintive and desperate, about something dark and a little bit scary. The shadows and light of this record are all Loveless looking at relationships that don’t make sense, maybe, but are there all the same. Not healthy, maybe, but still love.

The title track opens with a slide guitar, and the exhortation that she’s looking for good things to be a part of; “Somewhere Else” captures perfectly the aimlessness of your 20s, and in my case, your 30s, too. I want to be somewhere else tonight, but you don’t know where that is. It’s the same searching voice that precedes it on the album, which is a thorough blueprint through everything you can fuck up in your life and still survive. I swore I’d never be this bitter again, she mourns on “Everything’s Gone”, the quiet acoustic penultimate track. And “They Don’t Know” finishes it off, a perfect because fuck you that’s why ending, the kind of song that Loveless sells perfect quiet or loud. This one is harmonies and steady guitars, and it’s reminder that love’s important, and everybody else’s opinion of you can go hang.

That’s the kind of record I can get behind. And I do get behind this one; it’s fucking great. Go buy it.

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