Miss Kitten should be given credit for getting much mileage out of a persona and shtick that should have been a one-off appearance on the 12-inch for “Frank Sinatra”, the song with the delightfully raunchy post-ironic chorus, “To be famous is so nice, suck my dick, lick my ass.” In a deadpan cadence done in the accent of Ilsa the She-Wolf of The SS, Miss Kitten, on her previous releases with The Hacker and Goldenboy, created decadent club music for people too arch and smart for typical white label fare. It was a deader and more desolate take on tired convention of the house beat and unknown diva repeating a pithy chorus ad nauseum, an alleged elevation of cliché through the detachment of kitsch. Truthfully, in small doses, it worked beautifully and songs like “Rippin’ Kitten” had a masterfully glassy glamour, a tragic Marlene Dietrich caste that reeked of excess’ morning after, when the drugs dissipate from your system and the world appears garish and threatening and your body feels like a strewn pile of aching rubble, but you do another line anyway.
By winking behind the curtain of glitz and celebrity grandeur, Miss Kitten and company made it all seem so hollow, all the while remembering to keep our booties responding in metronomic ecstasy, like zombies hooked up to a car’s battery. She was the electroclash dominatrix of the post-pop apocalypse, and for a few disposable singles, it was bloody brilliant.
Her solo effort, I Com, is alternately more sincere and less interesting. Gone are the allusions to coke-filled after parties and velvet ropes opening like eager draw bridges. Apparently life as Miss Kitten has been rougher than I might have imagined. Either that or this is just one more turn in the persona, the Miss Kitten after rehab, an album memoir of confession and regret, that point in celebrity when we get to hear what tired spiritual platitude saved the star from the noose of their own making. The litany of fame complaint that deluges the song content also seems a touch premature, the kind of thing we’d expect from Madonna, but not from someone few people have heard of. Miss Kitten’s writhing dance whining sounds tedious and shrill especially considering the fact that, even barring Hasselhoff hugeness in Europe, being famous is a choice that must be fought for in order to be kept (the Scott Peterson exception aside). With the advent of reality television, fame as a commodity is devoured before it is tasted, an existential validation that is now so unmoored from talent, that nearly anyone at any time can have their fifteen minutes in one gluttonous gulp. If fame is really this traumatic for the electropop Madame, she should let go. If this is simply a point of view record, then what point of view could be more boring than the mewling pop star?
“Professional Distortion” wastes a beautiful bassline that rides into the speakers like a skipped stone by saddling it with the Ladytron monotone of the lyrics, an endless list of “I have to…” statements about the rigors and low drama of the music life. Courtney Love has never been so maudlin about her chosen fate. (“I have to put guests on the list”) “Meet Sue Be She” is, of all things, an inane ode to her manager: robotic, racing at a mechanically tinny clip, and built around a guitar riff so digitized that it may as well be the Casio “heavy metal” setting. “Happy Violentine” at least shifts up the grating thud tempo, this time an ambient ballad full of steel smacks and floating in space keyboard that decries the fact that she feels like a machine. Although there’s nothing here that hasn’t been covered by Air, it works as a reprieve from the rest of the album and therefore unfairly feels like a decent song by comparative default. For the most part, I Com sounds like the worst musical mangles of electroclash: the ax-chipped rhythms, the dated blips and bleeps, the distinct sheen of thoughtlessness, and the wry style shot like a flare over the head of substance.
Frequently her broken English delivery draws painful attention to the lyrics, which hopefully lost everything in the translation. How else to explain Kiss Factory’s “Dial anti-hero line, You only can you only can pay me in kind” which sounds like it might be a few prepositions and a reference point or two from depth. “Clone Me” contains the inscrutable couplet “Call me double-triple/Copies now are legal”, and the list could continue from here by simply wedging my index finger at any place in the liner notes. Given the brittle, simplistic club gloss of the beats, one might expect the lyrics to provide some sort of sonic refuge, but everything on I Com is cheaply alienating, all vacuum tubes, unwieldy dials, and canned air. If this is some sort of Dieter dance party sarcasm about her “foreignness”, then I’m too tired at this point to sort the ironic from the straight-up shitty. If I have to psychoanalyze your aesthetic motives to determine how I feel about a song, odds are I hate it, but want to make sure the cool kids won’t laugh at me when I say so.
What most disappointing about the wayI Com caves and crashes like punctured Mylar is that all she really had to do was write something catchy, at least a smattering of songs with funny one liners or repetitions worthy of mix tape inclusion. That does not happen here. Nothing does. Unless you count an insert made soggy by a Peaches knock-off’s crocodile tears about how hard it is to sign an autograph.
// Notes from the Road
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