Auto-Erotic Fixation

Here in Her Car, It's the Only Way to Live

If Sally Crewe hadn't happened, Nick Hornby would've invented her. She's like the flip side of the American alt-country singer Rob Fleming falls for in High Fidelity—Marie LaSalle, who's recently relocated to London from Austin, fleeing a bad breakup and an indifferent American audience. Sally Crewe is British, lives in London, and has a song about wanting to move to Austin. So what's stopping her? Her house, dog, car, and job—in that order. Ditching adulthood is tough once you get used to its better trappings.

Crewe is no roots-rocker, but she plays a minimalist version of the sort of classic American pop that real-life Rob Flemings insist would be the bedrock of pop radio in a perfect world. She's a big believer in the muted two-string rhythm guitar riff, that old trick beloved of new-wavers and their radio offspring. Drive It Like You Stole It has the same track-for-track radio-readiness as the Cars' own knockout debut, minus the chilliness, but Crewe isn't your best friend's girl. She's more like the indie boy's ideal of a girl who's a best friend—maybe with benefits. The one who's gonna drive you home tonight—which she promises to do on "ABC (Waiting for You)"—after some unattainable girl shatters your sensitive little heart.

Given Crewe's Texas dreams, it's no surprise that there's so much driving on Drive It. Seven of its 12 songs reference the act, often with fetishistic exactitude: stealing "an emerald green mica Jaguar" (pronounced "JAG-you-are"), "creeping past the Gatsos" (apparently a European brand of speed detector), staring at the "cat's eyes down the center line" to stay awake behind the wheel. This is more than just a pop junkie's iconographic obsession. For every celebration of making out in the backseat and blasting by the cops at "150 big-grin miles per hour," Crewe also sees cars as part of life's tedious fabric, the cause of dumb arguments with your neighbor over parking spaces. What's a kid's first driver's license, if not simultaneously a symbol of newfound adulthood and an invitation to youthful indiscretion? Does driving it like you stole it mean proceeding with caution so you don't get caught, or joyriding 'cause you'll get caught anyway?

Good reason to stay put
photo: Courtesy 12xu Records
Good reason to stay put

Details

Sally Crewe and the Sudden Moves
Drive It Like You Stole It
12XU

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Drive It is the rare album that grapples with the tension of growing up while staying indie—the dilemma, say, of whether to settle in London or slack in Austin. Crewe made the record with Jim Eno and Britt Daniel of Spoon, good Austin role models: Eno for his mix of lo-fi simplicity and studio clarity, and Daniel for his irony and eloquence in writing about a life of small stakes. But Crewe has good reason to stay put. She's happily married to one of indie rock's original Flemings (hint for fanzine historians: If Crewe weren't such an obvious talent, releasing this record might be a "conflict" of interest). Since he's also the man who introduced the world to Liz Phair, it's fitting that beyond the obvious similarities—a drummer-producer, that unadorned electric guitar—Drive It is like Exile in Guyville10 years later, which I guess makes it Tattoo You. It opens with Crewe starting up her car so it'll never stop. It ends with her nervously waiting on a friend in "Lying About My Age," playing a simple piano line and multitracking her voice to keep herself company, like Phair's "Flower" without the sexual brinkmanship. Drive It is about cruising with no particular place to go, and deciding to head home.

 
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