Rilo Kiley - Under The Blacklight
Download: Rilo Kiley - "Silver Lining"
Under the Blacklight (Warner Bros., 2007)
I feel like I should have so much to say about this album. But I don't. I've never been a fan of calling bands sell outs, but sometimes you can pin down the second when a band stops caring about craft and credibility. Under the Blacklight has captured that exact moment. Some of the songs have something genuinely good underneath the shine, but it's been so coated in sugar that you'll have a hard time uncovering it. Others are so repetitive that it's hard to even slog through. I wish I could say there are flashes of brilliance that redeem the record, but there really aren't. Under the Blacklight makes me feel patronized.
It's hard to decide what the biggest problem on this record is. I think it might be the lyrics. I like the whole idea of a pop album with super-dark lyrics, but I just don't know if Jenny Lewis is up to the task. In the past, she's been a really hit-and-miss lyricist. Look at "A Better Son/Daughter," off of The Execution Of All Things: It goes from awkward to brilliant to rhyming "in" with…"in," all in the same song. And that inconsistency is present on Under the Blacklight. "Close Call" is really strong, but it is balanced by "The Angels Hung Around," which treads incredibly worn lyrical territory.
Or, the biggest problem might be how generic most of the songwriting is. The whole album feels like something the average ghostwriter could crank out. "Under the Blacklight" is a prime example. It isn't a bad song. It's actually a very solid song and I can see it being popular. But it sounds like Sheryl Crow. The song is built on the standard verse-chorus-verse structure with nothing that sets it apart from anything any other artists are doing.
Unique songs, like "Dejalo", add interest to the album, but even the funky, Latin-inspired number doesn't really have enough going on to keep it afloat for the full 3:16. "Dreamworld," however saves the album from being a solid F. It's kind of fun to hear what the Sonic Youth might sound like if they decided to appeal to Michelle Branch fans.
Already, some diehard RK fans are claiming that this album is a bold, ironic statement. Maybe that's true. Maybe in five years' time, we'll all reminisce about what a courageous album this was. That doesn't make it any more listenable. Under the Blacklight just doesn't have the substance or creativity to make it into my regular rotation.