30
Oct 20

Omargeddon #17: A Lovejoy

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Unlike several other Omar Rodriguez-Lopez albums, the contents of A Lovejoy are accurately reflected by its cover. The bright colours, glitzy lights and disco font signpost a collection of infectiously catchy dance tracks, so despite the name, there are no weird curve balls concept-wise about Ian McShane’s mystery-solving antiques dealer and/or Springfield’s resident pastor.

Spotify has a lot of obvious moral failures, as well as, I’m coming to realise, vexing technical issues. I’ve accepted randomly vanishing tunes, because at least that can be somewhat explained by label interference or artist whimsy. However, I was recently stumped by the realisation that their version of A Lovejoy is both incomplete and inaccurate. The final song is given as “Tlaquepaque”, which is indeed correct, but what you hear is in fact the song “Left For Dead”, which doesn’t appear on the track list, meaning “Tlaquepaque” isn’t there at all. At first, I found this extremely irritating, but I suppose it means that I got a bonus ORL song this year that I wasn’t expecting, and it also prompted me to push the purchase of this album up my current Bandcamp queue. You could argue that I should have bought these albums years ago, but I’m doing it now, so kiss my ass.

This delicious slice of poppy dance is often reminiscent of the differently dancetronic Weekly Mansions. Both feature backing vocals from Teri Gender Bender, and Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez on drums and various synthy goodness. Both tracklists mostly alternate between songs with lyrics interspersed with instrumental segues, and both use call-backs to previous motifs and samples heard in earlier albums. “Un Recuerdo” is, as far as I can tell, exactly the same as Octopus Kool Aid’s “Avión Apestoso”. On that album, I felt it was more of a thematic pause than a song and a somewhat tuneless dirge that maintained that album’s anxious claustrophobia. It slots in more aptly here, blending smoothly from the plinky outro of “Faceless and Tired” and phases in and out in a soothing way that sustains the breathiness of that song.

However, there are considerable thematic differences between the two albums. Without trying to assign subgenres of EDM that I’m even less qualified to waffle on about than usual, Weekly Mansions feels more serious beatz heavy minded (maaan) to A Lovejoy’s sequin-encrusted glam. Weekly Mansions was a rare guitar-free album, which isn’t the case here, and we also get a bonus appearance from Deantoni Parks, who drums on “Tlaquepaque”.

When I finally had the chance to hear “Tlaquepaque”, I was at first confused, then pleased. In many ways, it’s a variation on the classic ORL 10-minute-plus jam, blurring various genres and referencing sounds heard earlier on the album. It begins with same classical-esque bleep of “I Bet He’d Like That”, pivots back to fuzzy electronica, and then opens a bag of ORL Mini Shredders, building up to a crescendo and then tapering off, finally concluding with a slightly sombre version of the skippy organ from the opening track, “Una Bestia”. It’s like a genre smoothie that at times is borderline oppressive and repetitious but does work extremely well as a microcosm of the album.

“Faceless and Tired” marries sensual, breathy vocals with a hooky beat and squelchy, glammed-out synths. This is a joyous burst of fun, and my only complaint is that it’s far too short, capably phasing out, as mentioned earlier, into “Un Recuerdo”. Having said that, there’s something highly satisfying about this tightly compacted two-and-a-half minutes of pop, an accomplishment that is very late-era ORL.

I kind of feel this way about “Transparent” – the clappy beats and exquisite singing are brills, but it’s all over just before it gets a chance to take off before subsequently vworping into “Still Not Breathing”. In a way, it makes the importance of the segue instrumentals apparent and lends the album cohesion. But it seems faintly ridiculous to demand an Alan Partridge big plate scam at this aural buffet.

Though if you give it just a tiny bit more time, you’ve got a fucking banger. “Fortuned Life” delivers absolute duetting heaven. It’s easy for even me to gloss over the lyrics, which evidence a wry humour that skates near melancholy, because it’s just so bloody punchy and upbeat. “And if you carry it alone/rejecting all you’ve known/to be a final laugh/in the sea of emptiness” is delivered hopefully rather than dejectedly, and adds a pleasant kind of cognitive dissonance.

On the surface, “Still Not Breathing” shouldn’t make my favourites shortlist. There’s little to no overt progression, and it’s all rather minimal. But this is like the opposite of Despair drone – five minutes of meditative chillbeats with soothing plinkdrops and pulsing waves zipping across a soundscape. It was used in his 2010 film The Sentimental Engine Slayer, and I really want to know what the context is, considering what (admittedly little) I know of the film’s plotline and themes. The video for “Agua Dulce de Pulpo” from Un Escorpión Perfumado was recorded and released the same year and has an ominous air, the total opposite of this song’s vibe.

As ever, I cycle between nit-pickiness and flying my apparatchik flag; my complaints are reserved for “Nobodies”, which has some clever lyrics, but compared to the other songs here, misses a trick with the lack of TGB backing vocals, which would give it that extra depth, and “Left For Dead”, which is dope and all but feels backwards. It starts off with the “wave yr hands in the air” trilly beat instead of building up to and exploding with it, so that the song seems to slowly deflate and unwind. 

I’m still finding my way around what I want from electronic dance music, which is something in-between mega BPMs and minimal, so A Lovejoy for the most part hits those targets. I’ll always enjoy parsing out the crossflow over his previous projects, and like Weekly Mansions, there’s a lot of ORL history here, such as the way certain instrumental tracks veering towards classical reminds me of his actual classical album Birth of a Ghost. Glittery and fabulous with just a tiny bit of sleaze, A Lovejoy shows he can louche it up with the best of the disco kids.

Track listing:
Una Bestia (A Beast)
Faceless and Tired
Un Recuerdo (A Memory)
Fortuned Life
I Bet He’d Like That
Transparent
Still Not Breathing
Nobodies
Left for Dead
Tlaquepaque

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