Justin Moyer dons a wig, lipstick, and teetering heels to throw down Part Three of his witheringly sardonic, aggressively tasteless, and intermittently amusing critique of celebrity culture.
Edie Sedgwick was one of the original empty celebrities, the beautiful, useless people who seem to be famous for being famous. How fitting, then, that she would become Justin Moyer’s preferred alter-ego, as he delivers a lacerating, dance-beat-driven critique of celebrities like Mary-Kate Olsen, Angelina Jolie, and Rob Lowe. Sedgwick even gets her own song, the uncharacteristically lyrical “Edie Sedgwick Part II”, where Moyer/Sedgwick croons “What plastic lies beneath this mask / What empty logic of beautiful zeros”. It’s a good question, and maybe even a statement of intent, because this album is all about plasticity and emptiness. But it’s also unusually gentle and contemplative. Mostly Moyer tears down his targets with a ferocity that seems uncalled for, given their flimsiness.
Take “Mary-Kate Olson”, Moyer’s song about the twinned ex-child star now in a clinch with fame and anorexia. He’s got a sharp, original pen. The line about “what’s behind those anime eyes” is particularly well-observed. But still, there’s a meanness at play here, a flamboyant willingness to shock and make fun of illness. For instance, against the most celebratory of hand-clapped beats, Moyer chants a series of numbers, “buck-o-five, 95, 85, 75, 65”, weights all of them, and the lower ones a death sentence. It’s cold. No matter how annoying you find the Olsen twins, you have to wince at lines like “A lesson in being thin / Don’t eat then repeat”.
Moreover, that’s only the beginning. The title of the album comes from “Anthony Perkins”, a scathing, dance-friendly evocation of the Psycho star’s death from AIDs. Funny, huh? You may even end up feeling a little sorry for Brangelina after listening to “Angeline Jolie”, with its chorus of “Thinking about a baby / Working on a baby / Let’s go get a baby / Black baby”.
Moyer is, obviously, a provocateur, throwing musical Molotov cocktails to see people jump. He’s good at what he does, clever with the lines, cuttingly funny, and skilled at the minimalist, rhythmically compelling arrangements that frame his satire. Perhaps there is some larger agenda at work, a critique of celebrity, a use of outrageousness as a tool to get people thinking. But you can’t help but wish Moyer would focus his considerable intelligence and musical ability on something more serious. (There is one political song, “Bambi/G.W. Bush”, but it doesn’t go very deep.) I mean, really, after you’ve punctured the cult of Rob Lowe, made fun of Mary-Kate’s stick legs, and called Angelina on her self-promoting philanthropy, what’s next? The dark side of Zac Efron? The terrible absurdity of Miley Cyrus? These kinds of celebrities are caricatures already. Why waste time satirizing them?