It takes a special kind of singer-songwriter to find pathos in a party-punk song titled "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked." The raven-haired, kohl-eyed Norwegian singer-songwriter Ida Maria and her three-piece band left Tuesday's crowd of adoring indie boys at her Viper Room show ready to go home and bite holes in their turntables, true.
But in the midst of all the song's boozy come-ons and guitar clang, Maria changes every other line to "I like me so much better when you're naked," a sly twist that takes the single from a shut-up-and-kiss-me plea into something more wounded and Liz Phair-like.
That kind of wry playfulness makes Ida Maria likely to become one of the first breakout rock acts of 2009. She reels you in with promises of nudity and ridiculously catchy noise-pop, but it's obvious that there's much more on her mind than some dim boy.
Tuesday's show was the band's formal introduction to L.A. after a quick opening-act set at Spaceland the night before, but last year Ida Maria's single "Oh My God" became something of a blogger talisman of an exactingly perfect punk song. It's three minutes of Maria riling herself up, repeating lyrics like "Find a cure for my life / Put a price on my soul" before the chorus hits with a full-band stop-start move that practically dares you not to dance to it.
It seemed that everyone in the room knew every lyric to "Oh My God" and "Naked," even though Maria has yet to release a proper album in America. She reveled in the affection, accepting drinks from the audience and briefly commandeering the arm of a cameraman in front of the stage.
But as the set dug deeper into the band's forthcoming collection, "Fortress Round My Heart," the songs proved much thicker and more complicated. The rueful "Stella" asks the question: "I wonder how it will go / when God hands over the whole wide world / to a 43-year-old hooker from downtown." Even brasher cuts like "Queen of the World" feel soaked in end-of-the-party desperation, as Maria admits, "I got no plans for tomorrow / In fact I'm free this week / I'm free this month."
That's the fascinating thing about Ida Maria's charisma. She's so eager to boast of having "a drink in one hand and a man in the other," as she did in the middle of her Viper Room set. But her songs are too jittery and rhythmically anxious to keep more fraught feelings down for long.
"I've seen a lot of fake breasts in L.A., but I haven't seen very many naked people," she said in slightly more ribald terms before giving the crowd the hit they'd waited for. She loves late nights and bad behavior, but you'd darn well better show yourself too, and stick around for breakfast.