By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The late-'90s bust-up of that dog. was predictable, at least to the handful who cared; we few fans shrugged and said only, "Of course." A band eternally on the verge succumbed to the grim inevitable, because there was no way a Los Angeles pop band--fronted by a could-be pinup with a legendary record-producing pop, twin sisters with their own famous dad (a jazzer, no less) and a dude drummer--was going to make a dent on radio or on the charts, then or ever. The music was pure sunshine and delight--the power-pop-rock equivalent of a summer-romance kiss or a midnight swim in the surf--and yet it couldn't have been more out of tune; thatLos Angeles hadn't existed in decades, since Brian Wilson and Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb were booking studio time on the Strip. So that dog. tucked its tail between its legs and disappeared, whipped and beaten, and those who knew mourned its demise while those who had no clue missed out on three remarkable albums now selling for pennies on the dollar in the cutout bins.
Anna Waronker, now married into Redd Kross (she's Steve McDonald's missus), makes her solo bow after a few years of killing time in the soundtrack factory; she wrote the CluelessTV theme, did the score for Fox's Opposite Sex and contributed a song to the Josie and the Pussycatsalbum, "I Wish You Well," a 4-year-old track that reappears here in slightly altered form (i.e., she's actually singing it, not Letters to Cleo's Kay Hanley). The new Anna's little changed from the old Anna, save for the fact she's now willing to sell herself as sex symbol; hence the nudie album cover, with arms strategically placed. (That's one way to herald the formation of a new label; it's also the way to announce a strip-bar opening.)
Anna's the quintessential El Lay El Pee--shiny and weary, glittery and glum. It feels awful but looks great, like a dumped supermodel prowling Skybar on a Friday night. It's got rage issues ("How do you sleep at night," she asks a bad ex), sounds in spots like an Aimee Mann confessional disinterested in revealing toomuch ("Fortunes of Misfortune"), conjures Maria McKee and Susanna Hoffs and even the Runaways ("Perfect Ten," which scores a good 7.5). The fetishist will be delighted to find little changed from the formula: catchy rock songs with guitars and softer strings, melancholy ballads with bark and bile ("I wish this was the first time/I wish this was true love"), vocals on loan from the Go-Go's (Charlotte Caffey, married to Jeff McDonald and partner in Five Foot Two, contributes throughout) and grrrl-group harmonies left over from that dog. In all, the fourth album masquerading as first offering from a front woman now bereft of expectation and three musicians who, ya know, were just getting in the way.
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