I got an advance of "The Moneymaker," the first single from Rilo Kiley's new album Under the Blacklight a couple weeks ago and it did nothing for me. I was disappointed. I love The Execution of All Things, wasn't impressed by More Adventurous, and was not able to get my head around frontwoman Jenny Lewis' solo album Rabbit Fur Coat. I was beginning to think I was a fan of Execution, not Rilo Kiley.
Listening to Under the Blacklights reminds me of a line from Pulp's "This is Hardcore:"
"This is the sound of someone losing the plot
Making out that they're okay when they're not
You're gonna like it, but not a lot..."
Trying to relate to this album is a lot like I imagine trying to relate to your teenage son or daughter. The little bastard is damn difficult to love, but you do it anyway. Under the Blacklight is not the kind of album you instantly embrace, even if its best songs are frontloaded. It's packed with dirty sounds and subjects. It's easy to get lost in what feels like relentless tawdriness and a self-consciously retro sound but when the songs are good – and they are often very, very good – well, you know what they say about a spoonful of sugar.
Under the Blacklight could be a modernized, musical companion to Mark Twain's The Gilded Age. I wonder if the excesses of a generation of glamor girls and their unglamorous behaviors inspired or influenced Lewis' lyrics. Tales of underage sex, promiscuity, and tacit references to pornography describe this album or just another night on the town for Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and a host of other troubled young women.
"Silver Lining" is easily one of the band's best songs. It has a hook, a short but catchy chorus, and accentuates Lewis' strengths as a vocalist. It's got a hummable, memorable melody and layers of sonic glory. Shiny guitars chime and glimmer, synthesizers add texture, and choir-like backing vocals join with Lewis' inspired vocal to create infectious, sunny '70s pop with a danceable gospel feel. But don't let the sunny sounds fool you. "Silver Linings" come with clouds and the lyrics provide plenty of cover.