Under The Blacklight has been out since late summer, and it has not only fared but worn well. It has also received critical raves, quite a feat for a crossing over. Over four discs, the band has negotiated the slippery slope that separates indie rock from mainstream pop. I prefer the latter version of the outfit. It suits the former child actor's voice and presence (there is another former child actor in the group as well, guitarist and co-writer Blake Sennet) and her songwriting prowess morphs to propel the band in the right direction. Are there blueprints apparent, can we guess the maps in the glove? Sure. Doesn't bother me, if the songs are good, if the singer compels, if the tracks inspire me, if only to move.
Jenny Lewis is sexy without being dirty. This fails to convince some people. Fine. There are lots of dirty girls out there; they don't interest me. She wears the confidence of her solo success well, 2006's record with The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat.
In the predictable 20-years-later swing of the pendulum, a lot of Under The Blacklight does sound like a sugar-coated, '80s dance party without constipated singers and synth bombast. But it's substantial enough to satisfy, catchy enough to have to have it. Sure, I wish somebody taught her how to roll that "r" when she says "nuestra cosa" in "Dejalo," their Miami Sound Machine type song, that would've made it sound so much cooler, but it's a detail the Devil can deal with.
There's a soft porn vibe to the songwriting, allegedly a nod to the Van Nuys atmosphere the singer grew up in, but it's more suburban that it is sordid; it's pop. In "Smoke Detector," for instance:
There's a girl in a tank top
I took a man back to my room
It's silly I know; but I have to admit, it works for me.
And the band has made the transition to major hook pop band with ease, to a man, and woman. The grooves, the parts, the melodies, the words--it's very interesting, very illuminating even, to see a band make this transition right in front of your eyes and pull it off.
Under The Blacklight exponentialized this band's profile, and we fully believe that trend will continue. Highly recommended. • Frank Goodman