Back in the early '80s, a genre emerged that I like to call "snark rock." This type of music usually involves a female lead singer who, with a flat, sarcastic tone to her voice, spits out some cynical lyrics. Typically harder rock, verging on punk, thumps in the background to emphasize the singer's aggressiveness. Early, prime examples of "snark rock" include "Never Say Never" by Romeo Void and "I Know What Boys Like" by the Waitresses. Over time electronica has entered the mix, most recently with Peaches, whose often racy lyrics suggest her turning the tables on traditional gender roles.
Elements of "snark rock" abound in Let's Be Friends, The Lovemakers' second full-length album. Throw in some Joan Jett and B-52s, and you'll get an idea of their quirky, power-pop sound. Hailing from the Bay Area, band founders Lisa Light and Scott Blonde originally were a romantic couple, but broke up shortly before recording Let's Be Friends. The result is a chronology of their deteriorating relationship from both perspectives, much in the spirit of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. The album mixes some intense emotion with pounding beats and blaring guitars; on the surface it may seem like good party music, but the bitter lyrics belie this party mood.
The strongest—and most immediately accessible—cut on the album is "See What I Want to See." Reminiscent of Jett's version of "I Love Rock and Roll," Light celebrates the slacker life: "I think it's funny, what you do for cash/I make my money by shakin' my ass," she sings with a sneer. "Don't need no fancy shoes, no houses in the hills of LA." With the funky, bass-and-guitar-driven beat, this cut will get any party going. Guaranteed.
In contrast, other tracks may rock hard, but their pessimistic lyrics address the end of the couple's romance. From the opening track "Love Is Dead" (recently featured as iTunes's "Single of the Week"), Blonde and Light duet on painfully honest lines: "How we roam the empty streets of all dead ends/When we can't be lovers and we can't be friends," they harmonize over a beat and rhythm guitar straight out of The Cure. "Wanna Be Back" details the awkward transition from lovers to friends: "Go to work, come back home/Read a book, all alone," sings Blonde. The chorus then expresses longing to return to the relationship: "I wanna go back and start from the start/I wanna go back and unbreak my heart," Blonde sings. "I wanna go back and get the first kiss/I wanna go back and see what I missed."
Perhaps the most brutally frank song on the album, "This Life Is Over," recounts the good times they shared as a couple: "No more weekend parties/Smokin' in back alleys, those times are gone," Blonde croons. Both lead singers trade lines, simulating the experience of eavesdropping on a lover's quarrel.
The title track, the ultimate "snark rock" song off the album, features B-52's-like guitar (circa original member Ricky Wilson) and bitter vocals from Blonde and Light: "Lets be friends/We'll stay in touch till we're dead," they sneer. "And sometimes i won't ever pick up the phone/And sometimes you won't leave me alone!" A likeable mix of rock and punk, the song's tone nicely compliments the sarcasm of the lyrics.
If you are a fan of '80s power pop and like a touch of sarcasm, The Lovemakers' Let's Be Friends is a must-listen. Blonde and Light update "snark rock" with louder guitars and danceable beats, but with a serious, heartbreaking undertone. It will be interesting to see how The Lovemakers expand their sound in future releases.