Saturday, October 21, 2006

Been Caught Stealing

Stefy, The Orange Album, Wind-up/Sony

I put off playing this CD for the longest time because the packaging is so slick and anonymous. Well, I kind of like it--but for all the wrong reasons. First of all, the music is just as slick as the cover art (see below). To quote the Digable Planets, "It's slicker than grease." What I like is that it brings me back to my high school days. Not to the music I was actually listening to at the time, like the Talking Heads and the Police, but to the music I couldn't quite get away from, like Pet Benatar, Missing Persons, and Berlin.

In other words, Stefy Rae Eustace--how's that for a name--has a powerful set of pipes. She's a petite dark-haired beauty with an ever-present groan in her voice, as if every note is a strain. Benatar and Berlin's Terri Nunn share this quality. It's like a cross between a sexual come-on and a severe case of constipation. And it's exactly why I prefer Joan Jett. She just belts it out.

If you take this formula into a higher register and add some Betty Boop sound effects, you get former Playboy Bunny Dale Bozzio of LA's Missing Persons and Christina Amphlett of Australia's the Divinyls, who even dressed like a Catholic school girl--in the band's early days--and is best known to American audiences for 1991's "I Touch Myself." Everyone repeat after me: Ugh.

Well, Stefy's lyrics aren't quite that cringe-inducing, but it's pretty clich├ęd stuff. In "Orange County," the strongest track, Eustace references Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, TiVo, and "prepaid AT&T." It's as if she wants to remind us--maybe even herself--that it's the 2000s, but those Thomas Dolby keyboards say otherwise. And to open the album by quoting the synth line from "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This"? That says it all. Incidentally, Greg Kurstin (the Bird and the Bee, Lily Allen) co-wrote "Cover Up" and "Chelsea." Other name contributors include Tom Lord-Alge, who mixed the disc, and Graeme Revell, who arranged the strings on "Lucky Girl."

So, I tried to hate this record, and Stefy gave me every reason to follow through on my intentions, but The Orange Album inspires images of leg warmers, big hair, Top Gun, John Hughes movies, and cheesy MTV videos. I don't necessarily miss the 1980s, but whenever I'm reminded of that era's silliest by-products, I can't resist a smile. In other words: Not guilty by reason of insanity. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether I mean myself or the band.

Note: Images from the official Stefy website.

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