An air of bemusement seems to follow Hollywood film stars when they embark on a musical career; partially because we’re all wondering why they’d want to, but mainly because most of the output is pretty damn awful.
Fortunately this doesn’t apply to Juliette Lewis who, after five years, two full length albums and numerous tours and festivals, is still going strong. She’s dispensed with the services of previous band The Licks and got a new group together to produce a sound that’s certainly more arty and definitely more adventurous on Terra Incognita.
It’s her first outing with producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta; the two set out with the intention of creating a vibe that’s melodic, yet unpredictable. But whilst it’s definitely melodic and maintains an air of Lewis’ trademark kookiness, there’s little that’s unpredictable about it. The title may mean unknown territory, but there’s nothing about this album that’s uncharted.
Hard Lovin’ Woman is a blues piece with a very strong whiff of Janis Joplin to it and the rest of the album drops hints of Patti Smith, Courtney Love and Kim Carnes. Which is fortunate, as all of these suit Lewis’ trademark sultry rasping vocals which did so well in Hot Kiss.
The tracks themselves have more than enough variety to hold the attention with the dreamy psychedelia of Romeo contrasted with the gothic Noche Sin Fin. But some of the more conceptual tracks aren’t quite up there. Fantasy Bar misses the mark with its poke at Los Angeles decadence and Female Persecution is dangerously close to being a major snooze-fest.
The combination of Lewis and Rodriguez-Lopez seems promising, albeit one that could use a few tweaks and a tad less self-indulgence on the conceptual front. Lewis and her new combo The New Romantiques are hitting the UK for a tour this October and, on the basis of past performance, are definitely worth taking a bemused look at.