Album of the Day — May 30
Lydia Loveless —Indestructible Machine
Lydia Loveless —Indestructible Machine
Some artists were born to do what they do. Arthur Miller was born to write plays, Federico Fellini was born to make films, Henri Matisse was born to paint, Bill Hicks was born to do stand-up, etc.
Lydia Loveless was born to be a singer-songwriter.
Now … while I’m not always on board with labels and often prefer to stick to a much more subjective “good or bad” ideology, I know for many it’s easier to categorize. Suffice it to say, for me, Lydia Loveless falls into the “good” column, but for others, her music has been known to blend pop, classic country, honky-tonk, and punk.
2011’s Indestructible Machine leans a little more country with touches of punk and drips and drabs of pop and honky-tonk. Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot wrote that her “defiant tone is matched by songs that put country and punk on equal ground, unvarnished and direct”.
Lydia Loveless is a Kodachrome picture of a beautifully preserved covered bridge between country and punk … if you’re into such things.
What makes Loveless such a powerful songwriter is that the songs on Indestructible Machine have a depth and maturity to them that I didn’t expect from a 21-year-old — presumably, 19/20 when she wrote them. The characters in these songs have done some livin’ … it’s unique.
The inroad for me was “More Like Them” which I first heard while watching Gorman Bechard’s 2016 documentary Who is Lydia Loveless?
If you’re a fan of music docs at all, I can’t recommend this documentary enough.
I had to pause the movie and spend spent the next 15 minutes searching for the song. Over the next 24 hours, I must’ve played that song +/-200 times.
Whether it’s s a battle cry for introverts, a song rooted in antipathy, or one about the depression that accompanies a souring relationship — I don’t know. A little of all three, but it’s the hook in the final chorus that gets me … every … god … damn … time. Thankfully, it’s less embarrassing now, and its just goosebumps.
The last time I recall a song having that kind of impact on me was the first time I heard The Replacements “Unsatisfied” off of Let it Be.
Lydia Loveless slips on her cheeky and sassy pants for “Steve Earle” as she portrays the legend as not only a super-fan stalker but as an enabler of epic proportions … which would be incredibly out of character Earle.
“Steve Earle” is a darker and far snarkier version of The Replacements “Alex Chilton.” And that’s when it hit me — Lydia Loveless’ lyrical sensibility speaks to me in the same way as Paul Westerberg of The Replacements.
Gorman Bechard’s also directed 2011’s Color Me Impressed, a documentary about The Replacements (also very good).
When Loveless puts her country on, like she does on “How Many Women”, her vocals sound an awful lot like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn … that’s not a bad place to be.
Critics wrote favorably of both Lydia Loveless and Indestructible Machine.
Spin highlighted the records “utter lack of bullshit” and its “roaring vocals, in her narrators’ lived-in-bars recklessness, and in her (Loveless) overall inability to mince words.”
Allison Stewart in The Washington Post compared Loveless’ vocals to those by Exene (of X) and Neko Case.
Thom Jurek on AllMusic said the record was where punk, country, crafted songs, and raw, immediate, visceral, and garagey rock & roll meet.
Indestructible Machine was recorded mostly live, with few overdubs, in her home state of Ohio. This type of recording is typically budgetary but it does inject urgency in both the music and Loveless’ vocals. Depending on the artist that can work for or against them. In this case, it’s the former.
On some songs Loveless sings in a panic-stricken manner and on some others it’s a resigned “fuck, I’ve done it again” vocal. Either could be the sound you’d expect to hear from someone who was calling you to bail them out of jail after being arrested for drunk driving for the first time … or the third time — which is plausible for any of the characters on this record.
These characters aren’t felons, they’re burgeoning fuck-ups.
Lydia Loveless has the sass you expect, the bravado & swagger you don’t, the talent you hope, and an honesty you can identify with … Lydia Loveless proves that there is no irony in the name of this album.