New Money is Logan Lynn‘s 10th album in a career that over the course of two decades has seen him fire out singles on a series of different labels, develop a career in TV and film, and make his voice loud and clear as an activist.
That this album comes out on Kill Rock Stars is significant. When Lynn provided a cover (alongside Bitch) of The Gossip‘s Standing In The Way Of Control for KRS’ 30 year anniversary celebrations he noted the company’s influence on his formative years, with Lynn claiming that “I’ve always felt like this label was part of my DNA as a songwriter”.
New Money represents something of a full circle in terms of reaping the benefits of that formative education of exposure to all those influential bands on those early KRS compilations. Which is to say that it is simple, direct and effective. With this album, Lynn has tapped into the consciousness and sound of 1980s synthpop and stripped it back to the bare bones leaving only deep hooks and emotion on display.
His approach can be neatly summed up on the funky paean to easy (if perhaps unrewarding and disconnected) living Eat&Drink&Smoke&Shop&Fuck. On the surface it’s a banging floor filler, that showcases everything you could possibly want from life, but Logan putting that against a chilled synth, and filling his lyrics with doubt and frustration with relationships give the whole thing a distinctly troubled vibe.
These juxtapositions are all over New Money. There’s the need for love and connection rub up against the need for meaningless sex (It’s Been Forever “wrap me up in tenderness and fuck me like you mean it). There’s the collective joy of the dancefloor beats opposing the cold loneliness of the synths. On Is There Anyone Else Like This In The World?, finding love still has its limits. “All you want is love, and you’re stupid enough to believe in trust,” he sings against an admittedly catchy grin inducing stomp. For some reason it has resonances of The Smiths in its DNA and is all the better for it.
Essentially the album exists on two levels. It does the job as a dance album quite easily. Logan has a way of setting the pace and ratcheting up quite nicely. And once those beats get the head nodding and the feet moving, it’s easy to miss the depth and turmoil in his lyrics as you find yourself throwing your hands in the air and bellowing “get blood on the art” or “I want to be rich and beautiful” without thinking too much about it. Yet once you’re onto the post dance comedown, New Money has a way of tapping into the existential dread of the early hours with its worry about finding love or adopting a position where self worth is at a fairly low point.
Thankfully the disconnection doesn’t crush the moments of sheer joy that run through out the album. When Logan turns his hand to covers he’s quite brilliant at twisting a song nicely. His take on Liz Phair‘s Fuck And Run messes with gender politics and sexuality, but giving the song a disco sheen, the original’s slightly uncertain and uneven feel is given a determined drive. There’s still a brittleness at the heart at the song, but given a propulsive kick up the arse, all of a sudden there’s a burning belief there. Which means the line “I can feel it in bones, I’m going to spend another year alone” doesn’t quite ring true, and “I’m going to spend my whole life alone” feels like a weirdly celebratory “fuck you, world”.
He also reworks Elliott Smith‘s Baby Britain quite brilliantly and highlights Smith’s ability to write incredible pop songs. In this form, it sounds positively joyous, with Lynn celebrating a wonderful talent and a feature of Smith’s writing that perhaps has gone somewhat under-appreciated for some time now.
The album closes with a song that initially feels a little out of place. Here’s To Us is an anthem and a rallying cry for those that feel out of place, ignored by everyone and everything. It is delicate and beautiful and heartfelt. If the rest of the album feels a little cold and disconnected then this is where Logan’s warmth and empathy resides. “Here’s to us, we’re on the back of the bus” he sings with a genuine passion, over a beat that sounds like it’s been lifted from Chariots Of Fire. As New Money comes to a close, picking up a couple of tickets to Nowheresville and heading to the back of bus seems like a pretty good idea. There’s a disco there, right?