This new album from Los Angeles band Rilo Kiley twists together three ostensibly unrelated themes: porn, a break-up, and what MTV and Top 40 sounded like in the mid to late '80s, when these twentysomethings first became cognizant of pop music.
The rampant sex talk on Under the Blacklight allows singer Jenny Lewis to flaunt the pouty sexuality that is a portion of both the band's appeal and the backlash that's followed. But, as a scion of the San Fernando Valley, epicenter of the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, it's also a natural subject for Lewis, no more forced, in theory, than a Las Vegas band writing about casinos or a Nashville songwriter tackling the underbelly of the country-music industry.
Unfortunately, Lewis & Co. don't make as much of this topic as they might. The lead single "Moneymaker" throbs like a strip-club soundtrack, but the lyrics only tease at the dynamics of working in the sex industry, while "Close Call" provides a trite moral commentary on sex work.
If the porn content underperforms, the break-up songs on Under the Blacklight manage to find fertile ground in a field that wouldn't seem to offer much. These songs are not bitter or triumphant kiss-offs — those we're used to — but coolly, almost defiantly unapologetic songs about ending a relationship with someone Lewis still cares about.
The best of these is "Breakin' Up," the one song on Under the Blacklight that rivals the best material on the band's 2005 career best, More Adventurous.
"It's not as if New York City burned down to the ground once you drove away," Lewis sings, flatly, coldly, to start the song, before segueing into a chorus that spins a novel cell-phone metaphor around the subject of romantic disconnection then launches into a gleeful refrain: "Ooh, ehh, feels good to be free!" — CH