photo by Mia Kirby

jennylee: right on!

Applying Warpaint's thin sonic veneer to yet another decade past on right on!, jennylee runs in place rather than moving forward.
right on!
Rough Trade

In the span of two albums, Los Angeles quartet Warpaint have examined myriad British musical movements from the ’90s. Having co-opted dream pop, shoegaze and trip-hop elements for 2014’s self-titled sophomore release, the band’s bassist, Jenny Lee Lindberg, seeks out additional English musical avenues yet untouched by Warpaint, stepping back a decade or two further on her solo debut, right on!.

As jennylee, Lindberg puts rhythm first. Be it via electric bass or synth beats, the low-end throb of right on! sets the tone for the album’s organic compositions, keeping mood pieces like bellowing opener “blind” afloat while upping the dramatic intensity on “never”, where Lindberg’s affinity for Joy Division-era Peter Hook is most evident.

Having perhaps oversold the bass-as-melody motif on the expansive Flood-produced Warpaint, Lindberg and co-producer Norm Block have taken a more organic approach to songs written during the recording of Warpaint’s second album. Steeped in goth and post-punk, the 34-year-old Lindberg, seeking a “raw and elemental” sound reminiscent of her youth, finds secondhand concordance in that era’s dour lyrical outlook and danceable grooves created by the likes of Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure and their respective peers and offspring. Creating atmosphere via rhythms rather than ambient synths, Lindberg can utter “Society is / Anxiety is / Misery is / It’s a myth” while inciting one to move as on the beat-heavy “boom boom”, a track ready-made for a David Fincher film soundtrack should Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross be unavailable to score. Likewise, the skittering acid-rock paranoia of “white devil” plays out like Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit interpreted by an LSD-addled Jim Morrison and covered as a b-side by Bauhaus.

Beholden to rhythm, Lindberg offers up pedestrian dance tracks such as the apocalyptic “riot” and the menacing pulse of “offerings”, the latter bringing guitar to the fore. Both upstaged by the gliding “he fresh”, the quiet storm standout of right on! exemplifies the album’s minimalist production while also spotlighting Lindberg’s apathetic approach to songwriting.

As with Warpaint, Lindberg’s songs are nothing more than lyrical refrains and monosyllabic fragments masked by studio theatrics. See: “long lonely winter” (“I’m freaking / I’m freaking bad bad / Bad bad / Bad bad / Bad bad / I’m freaking bad bad …”) and the threatening “bully” (“You better run away / I would run away / I would if I were you / You better run away / And get out of my face”). Forgoing any adherence to traditional narrative structure, “real life”, the unadorned acoustic track that closes out the album, seems oddly foreign; yet, its fleshed-out nakedness hints at what could have been on this solo outing. By applying Warpaint’s thin sonic veneer to yet another decade past on right on!, jennylee runs in place rather than moving forward.

RATING 6 / 10
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features for publication consideration with PopMatters.
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features.