It's rare when a record comes along where all the forces of personal creativity and intuitive collaboration click and grind in a way that makes the work seem timeless, though made up of various fragments of fertile musical periods. The Cure's Kiss Me Kiss me Kiss Me is an emotional landmark in people's lives, created out of suffering and newfound confidence. The first Pretenders album has that feel, too: a rock and roll outcast baring her heart with the perfect band. So does Any Kind Of Pretty, an album so privately provocative, erotically charged, and multi-dimensional that it can easily sit next to the two just mentioned.
Bre Loughlin was the centerpiece to Kuma, an experimental synthesizer-based Seattle band (described as 'romantic industrial'), where she startled people with her devastating vocals and seductive beauty. Her new band Daylight Basement delivers a series of black fingernail-scraping hooks, lipstick-smeared melodies, and tight rhythms encased in red leather pants, while Loughlin lovingly displays the width of her personality, from fire-band assertive to disarmingly vulnerable. The music has gone from spiky avant-nostalgia to a more traditional guitar-based format, but the pedal effects, keys, and drum syncopations keep things from ever getting predictable.
Loughlin collaborates on Any Kind Of Pretty with gifted local musicians, including drummer Davis Martin (Maktub), bassist/vocalist Dejha Colantuono (The Rotten Apples, The Pin Ups), guitarist David Bos (The Jeunes, Lloyds Rocket), and keyboardist Joey Veneziani (ex-Sibyl Vane). With Veneziana's infectious programming, Martin's nimble and feckless percussion, Colantuono's note-perfect rhythms, and Bos' Wall Of Sound neo-psychedelic buzz and strum, the album is choked with glorious hooks and heartfelt playing.
From "Godspeed Girl," the insanely catchy opener about Loughlin's feeling of solidarity for strong women, to the brazen manic pop thrill of "Just Kiss Me," to the aching and deeply touching admission of need "Crying," the swirl of passionate but restrained playing is a dynamic tension that leaves enough space for the listener to bring their imaginations (along with their hearts) back to time and again. "Fireworks," a gut wrenching ode to empathy created out of fire-walking daily tragedy, may be my favorite single of the year. Even a less urgent and more traditionally dramatic number like "12 Doors" has a chorus that crushes you out.
They say it's sad to watch a good thing go bad. And if that's true, it's also bracing to hear a stylish experiment in mod posturing eventually mature into a resplendent and seductive excursion into real rock and roll fire.