It’s hard to find an article of Lydia Loveless that doesn’t mention some type of “fire” — spitfire, firebrand, fiery. There’s no question why, of course; her music is a blaze of powerful vocals and raging rock and roll guitar, red-hot and ready with a snarl or a good, honest shout. No-holds-barred emotion burns through every song she sings, marking every ex she reams and every lost friendship she mourns. Loveless gets bitter, she gets rowdy, and she makes no apologies as a general rule.
Don’t make the mistake of pigeonholing her as all flames, though. On Boy Crazy and Single(s), a reissue of 2013 EP Boy Crazy and six previously released singles, Loveless reminds us that she’s earth, air, and water, too, not some intangible elemental force, but a real human being. She does this not just through her songwriting, but with a handful of covers to supplement it.
Of these covers, Kesha’s “Blind” is a standout, taking the sleek, club-ready pop song to a much heavier place, filling it out with lonesomeness and melancholy that begs the question of why someone wrote it with any other style in mind. “I Would Die 4 U” gives Loveless and her band a chance to try something very different from their usual style, paying tribute to Prince with synths and a solid bassline adding some bolder hues to the mix. The Lydia Loveless touch is still unquestionable, though; the harsh edge of her voice makes the promise in the song’s title sound like one she fully intends to keep. Finishing off the album is a stark rendition of Elvis Costello’s “Alison” with Loveless belting and strumming, the only figure beneath a sonic spotlight.
Boy Crazy is just as outstanding as it was four years ago when Loveless called it her “rock and roll tribute to baseball pants and youth”. Classic summer vibes warm up each track, but instead of feeling nostalgic, Loveless sings each song with such presence that she sounds like she’s still right in each moment as she sings it. And, tough enough to wear her heart on her sleeve, Loveless does not need to pick things apart or worry much about the future. When she does, she stops herself: on “Boy Crazy”, she muses, “When I go home, I feel so alone / That I wish I was his wife — not really, though.”
Nothing is more important than living at full volume for Loveless. That was true when we first heard Boy Crazy, and it’s just as valid on the singles that fill it out. With this reissue, she gives us anew a healthy dose of some of her earlier country music. Boy Crazy and Single(s) may be music we’ve already heard, but a little repackaged cathartic never hurt anyone, and if Loveless wants to give us the same music all over again, that’s her right. For us to get to listen to it once more is a privilege. Howl on!