William Bowers’s work makes a cameo here every Tuesday. In case you missed it, the dude writes for Pitchfork, Paste, Magnet, plus his work’s been in a da Capo anthology. Send him your spiritual healing at Puritan Blister.
Linda Sundblad, can you hear the sea?
By William Bowers
It keeps winning, the Noriega decade, and at such a pace that no one can authoritatively assess the methods or merits of its innumerable shanks and flanks. As conflicted witness to both its original incarnation and its explosively multifaceted revival, I get residually hung up (queue Madonna queuing Abba) on the flawed qualitative distinctions that were a lazy snob’s nifty record-buying filter way back before these pluralist times during which “Laffy Taffy” can rest unironically—nay, wholeheartedly—on an iPod between Deerhunter’s “Lake Somerset” and Roxy Music’s “Ladytron” (not to be confused, of course, with synth-pop backlookers, Ladytron the band, who also do DJ tours, like New Order’s Peter Hook). When I fancied Kelly Osborne’s 80s-assed singles, I thought I could feel my Minutemen albums loathing me, like sentient toys I’d philosophically abandoned—then Mike Watt goes and does sessions with Kelly Clarkson, as if to coo “quash that self-beef” into his fans’ anxious lobes. My precious copy of Depeche Mode’s Some Great Reward suffered the 90s in secret between my mattress and box springs, but now I’m a grown man fronting bright Modular tees, sweatbands, and mirror medallions to uncomplement my Misfits devilock haircut? Last week at a club, I saw a DJ kill the Smiths’ “Panic” (canonical “good” 80s) after one floor-clearing verse, transitioning into Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend (a fine-the-first-time rehash of canonical “bad” 80s), which prompted a stampede, packing even the unsteady platforms separating the booty zone from the bar area. Some leftover reactionary part of me wants to ask, “Is our children being breast-fed vomit?” Enter the wondrously recombinatory Linda Sundblad, who should be huge, huger than hairspray, Hairspray, and certain (hollaback) household names.
Sundblad’s a Swede who used to be in a tacky, melodramatic rock band named after the scooters in Quadrophenia, but her solo debut Oh My God is a great creamwork of ridiculous 80s-pop reinfiltration, an album with more points of entry/interest than personality, produced by a guy who mostly does commercials, except for one track (that sounds like doublespeed Junior Boys) produced by a dude who helped on some recent Aha records. Sundblad’s pipes are so able that she’s a blessed cipher, a contemporary Little Voice whose jarring shifts from coy/tweeny into epic/soulful parrot everyone from Madge to Bjork, to Pink, to Lady Miss Kier, to that sex-munchkin b-girl in Fox N Wolf. The beats range from whomping while paired with imperial keys (“Pretty Rebels”), to achieving that Phoenix antimatter feel, where the meek alignment of all the groove’s ingredients hit with a soft sophistication that outs bombast as debased (“Lose You”). The lyrical stances are equally unconcerned with consistency—depending on the song, Sundblad’s spiritually guilty about masturbation (“Oh Father”), flirting with effeminate fellas (“Who Q Boy”), worried about being a virgin forever (“Back In Time”), or addicted to kiss-offs (“Beautiful Boys,” a Nordic “No Scrubs” featuring the diss: “Grand Theft Auto superstar/ Without a license or a car”).
Oh My God’s been out for ten months but the good folks at Monza Records keep releasing singles and remixes. Except for the awful overdependence ballad “Daisies” (which sounds geared for Express outlets), this album’s as replayable a confection as 2005’s heralded Anniemal. (That is, once I got past how perfect it’d be for a leg-warmer-sporting gay librarian I know with an assaultive dance style and who types in exclamatory, sibilant ALLCAPSSS!!!!) What a disc: one bridge quotes “Get Into The Groove,” and later a lyric quotes Berlin! A chainsmoking Jew visiting my apartment was offended by the inelegance “Paparazzi’s/ Lined up like Nazis”! Bubblegum works triple-duty as a term for a sound, as an actual aesthetic prop, and as a prophylactic against teethgrinding! Huzzah for Sundblad’s well-honed piffle!