Naming everyone from Tommy James to Nirvana as an influence, Boston’s Make Lisa Rich hype themselves as the torch-bearers of power-pop. The songs on the group’s sophomore effort, Another Venus, undeniably incorporate such late ‘70s and early ‘80s influences as The Cars, Cheap Trick, and The Knack. Unfortunately, they never quite provide the euphoric buzz of those groups at their best.
For all their posturing, Make Lisa Rich are a product of the post-grunge era, with all the baggage that entails. While it’s admirable that the group attempts to recapture the joie de vivre on which rock ‘n’ roll was originally based, they frequently miss the mark. Too often, Make Lisa Rich resort to volume and fuzz when they should be concentrating on clean melodies. It’s a simple truth that a good lick hooks us every time. “Satisfaction,” for instance, is not genius, but it’s a classic because anyone’s granny could hum that intro.
Most of the songs comprising Another Venus lack that sort of sonic punch, but there are a few hummable ditties. One of them is “Cinnamon Anderson,” a girl to whom the singer croons, “I think I’m gonna write me a runaway note / Because you don’t care.” The Joe Jackson-ish “Eurocrush” ruminates on adolescent love in the self-deprecating way Jackson himself often did, with lyrics like, “She’s so perfect / She’s everything I want to be.” “Whatever Happened to Love?” also contains some genuine lovesickness, and a catchy keyboard hook to boot.
At other times, however, the group’s approach to pop music seems self-conscious. Groups like the Ramones, Blondie, Cheap Trick, and The Cars certainly approached pop with a sense of bemusement and irony, but Make Lisa Rich sometimes try too hard to prove they aren’t sappy. On “Girl Trouble,” they veer dangerously close to expressing vulnerability (“At the world’s end / I think I’ll find you when I turn around”), then cynically cheapen the emotion with a weird lyric (“Rental car / We drove too far / Crash down”).
The biggest problem with this album, however, is lead singer Bo Barringer’s voice. He isn’t a great vocalist, nor does he possess heaps of charisma, and one of the two is necessary to make a great rock ‘n’ roll singer. Like the unfortunate Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty, Barringer infuses each line with too much emotion so that no particular phrase is given depth.
In time, Make Lisa Rich might deliver a true pop masterpiece. Another Venus, however, is just another mediocre attempt.
// Notes from the Road
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