POP MUSIC REVIEW : Lene Lovich Rides In on an Old Wave of New Wave

This is the time of year when you're not particularly surprised to see moldy bands from the '60s hobbling along the county fair circuit, or packaged on some blast-from-the-past tour. But Lene Lovich's show Sunday at the Coach House introduced a new, odd concept: "new wave nostalgia."

It's been 10 years since Lovich emerged on a "Be Stiff" tour (like the one that launched Elvis Costello), six years since she released her last album, and nearly that long since she performed locally. The gap stemmed largely from a reportedly soured-yet-continuing contractual relationship with Stiff, a record label with which she is no longer affiliated.

Now that she's a free agent and touring again, you'd think she'd arrive with a large batch of new songs and an updated sound.

You'd be dead wrong. In Sunday's 15-song set, there were maybe three new tunes.

One was an admirable, if musically redundant, animal-rights anthem co-written with Nina Hagen called "Don't Kill the Animals."

The other new originals, most likely co-written with her husband-guitarist-longtime collaborator Les Chappell, included a nifty slice of contemporary dance-pop (she didn't identify the piece, but from the lyrics, it may be called something like "Natural Beauty"). It's not unlike the new music favored by one of Lovich's old keyboard players, Thomas Dolby.

And otherwise, it was pretty much Lovich business as usual as she turned out such old quirk-pop numbers as "Lucky Number," "Home" "It's You, Only You (Mein Schmerz)," "Rocky Road" and Dolby's "New Toy."

Lovich and Chappell have never been all that prolific, but jeez .

Lovich's band featured, along with Chappell, a male-female duo that provided all manner of synthesized accompaniment, resulting in a sort of thin, "lounge wave" sound. It's a tribute to Lovich's tilted talent that she was able to transcend some of the sound's limitations. Her vocal flights of fancy and occasional sax honks helped keep things interesting (as did her typically kooky garb). She remains an eccentric, enormously endearing performer and quickly had the audience in the palm of her hand. Too bad she didn't do more with the opportunity.

The show was opened by the Scarecrows, a local quartet that apparently has spent some time listening to early Rolling Stones records--a contention that seemed especially tenable when, augmented by a saxophonist, the group tore through a Stones cover.

It's a shame that Scarecrows didn't cut loose like that more often. These guys don't project a particularly charismatic or commanding stage presence, a drawback that could be offset if they consistently smoked musically.

As the Stones cover indicated, that wouldn't seem out of their reach. The musicians definitely can play, and they reflected a strong melodic sense. If they can boost the intensity a notch and shake the habit of occasionally confusing simple lyrics with simplistic ones, the Scarecrows well might become a first-rate outfit.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World