Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous

Rilo Kiley
More Adventurous
Brute/Beaute/Warner Bros.

They don't make 'em like More Adventurous anymore, and that's no accident. Corporate exchequers figured long ago that willfully yet openheartedly klutzy indie rock, steroidally enhanced for an imaginary pop audience, was a less rewarding means of incinerating disposable capital than frivolous lawsuits against Kazaalings. And those of us who actually make up that make-believe market share? Well, we got these L.A. kids, who've somehow purveyed underground cred (particularly a one-disc Saddle Creek stopover) and vestigial Hollywood connex (singer Jenny Lewis and guitarist Blake Sennett were both child actors) into a boutique label.

Too exuberant to focus on studio perfectionism, Rilo Kiley choose studio maximization. On "Does He Love You," Lewis learns she's been cheating with her best friend's husband while drum-fill carpet bombing achieves a climax that's but a fake explosion and a backing choir away from scoring "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on the schmaltzometer. The band amasses both strings and horns for the lead cut, "It's a Hit," as Lewis grouses about our monkey-boy president, condescends to an upper-middle-class stooge who collects "ordinary moments in his ordinary life," and then concludes, "It's a holiday for a hanging." Throughout, Sennett's guitar doodles, less outright hooky than loosely chattering, are a fitting contrast with the big-room arrangements and Lewis's all-but-embarrassingly expressive voice.

But this is Jenny's show, and she traipses from persona to persona--boasting she's "bad news" and sulking about getting too much action on "Portions for Foxes," giving an inch worth of lyric but taking a country mile on the torchy showpiece "I Never," and, with the poor-but-happy "The Absence of God," faking the folk to recast "Danny's Song" for 21st-century ramen chefs. Lyrics that sound merely oblique in modest settings grow downright bizarre in this limelight. But Lewis, who's too theatrical for indie naturalism yet too wry for naked megapop corn, pinpoints emotional nuance in the broadest melodrama by never revealing exactly how much distance from the heart of a song she does or doesn't maintain--like vintage Debbie Harry (if less heartily or precisely). No, that doesn't make More Adventurous the West Coast, post-alternative Parallel Lines I'm willing to pretend it is--first off, no one's gonna buy it. But like I said, they don't make 'em like that anymore.

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