Phoebe Kreutz - Big Lousy Moon

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

A player on the New York anti-folk scene and part time puppeteer, Phoebe Kreutz treads a fine balance between doe-eyed innocence and the kind of brittle, finely tuned sense of cynicism only an 80-year-old hooker should possess. This brand of righteous annoyance at the inevitable collapsing of life's promises cuts like a laser through the sweet folk confection of the music on Big Lousy Moon and often acts as a punchline to the tragi-comedy of Kreutz's favourite subject matter - the myriad disasters which can befall the love-struck. She even has a song called 'Disaster'. Throughout this, her second album, Kreutz tosses up examples of love's hopes trammelled into dirt by the uncaring boot heel of life, from classic literature ('A Bad Feeling About Anna Karenina') to English history ('Oh, Elizabeth I') and a brilliant skewed take on American folklore ('Lesbian Cowgirl'). These are delivered with sparkling wit rather than lachrymose moping - for example, when Tolstoy's heroine sees a peasant run down by a train Kreutz dryly observes, "I could be wrong but it feels like foreshadowing/ and she's in for something unpleasant".

A wordsmith and comedian of considerable wit, Kreutz repeatedly casts herself as the hapless dreamer continually succumbing to fate's booby traps, envying the domestic comfort of nesting birds in 'Birdy in the Driveway' and actively trying to make her beloved blub on 'Song to Make You Cry'. The songs which deviate from this mould are also fantastic: 'The Ballad of Throat Culture' is a hilarious piece of lampooning/wish fulfilment on the typical rise and debauched fall of a rock'n'roll band. The lyrics (sample: "I develop a heroin addiction/ you develop an aversion to the sun/ we both contract a syphilis affliction/ now tell me if that doesn't sound like fun") are priceless and Pete Doherty should get them tattooed on his face. Standout track 'Bull Run Beer Run' turns a hunt for a decent bar into an intoxicating excavation of Deep South strangeness, a land haunted by port-swigging Confederate ghosts. Opening track 'All Summer Long', meanwhile, celebrates the joys of endless summer nights in such a simple and direct way it's genuinely affecting.

Kreutz's style is, effectively, an updating of Tom Lehrer's scalpel-sharp musical satire. It also recalls the arch melodrama of Morrissey, albeit delivered with significantly less venom and more of a confused shrug. The 'funny song' carries something of a stigma both in pop music, the perpetrators of such fare too often resorting to inane goofing and witless take-offs; Tenacious D being a prime, best forgotten example. A shame, because, as Big Lousy Moon amply proves, one of the gifts of great pop music is to make us laugh as well as dance.

Best tracks: 'Bull Run Beer Run', 'Oh Elizabeth I', 'Boo Frickin' Hoo'

Richard Morris

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