Frontwoman Jenny Lewis described California as ”a recipe for a black hole” on Rilo Kiley’s 2001 debut, Take Offs and Landings. Three albums later, the sardonic, critically adored alt-rockers from L.A. have decided to expose their sinful city in vivid — even lurid — detail.
Under the Blacklight is a somewhat tragic marathon of true-ish Hollywood stories about ”money for sex” (”Close Call”), lost innocence (”15”), and hazy dives (”Smoke Detector”). ”I’ve been clubbed and I’ve been snubbed by the dogs of L.A.,” mourns Lewis on ”The Angels Hung Around.” The video for the first single, ”The Moneymaker” — a sparse cut that’s tawdry and sludgy enough to follow ”Cherry Pie” in any self-respecting strip joint — even features real porn stars. Still, for all its intended shock value, Blacklight is short on actual surprises.
The thrill of enjoying Rilo Kiley’s music has always been stumbling into those bursts of bitterness and heartache buried in Lewis’ sweet, neurotic verse. Here, her dark sentiments are more direct and, as such, less clever. And while the CD is deliberately danceable, it lacks any melody as instantly memorable or arrangement as dynamic as, say, 2005’s ”Portions for Foxes.” There are inspired moments, like the bouncy cross-country kiss-off ”Breakin’ Up” and the soaring brass of the Dusty Springfield-esque ”15.” But for the most part, Blacklight is far too flat to shine. B-
DOWNLOAD THIS: Hear ”Breakin’ Up” on Rilo Kiley’s MySpace