“Well, honey, I was just thinking about you / and how you got married last June / I wondered how that worked out for you / so I just thought I would call,” goes the opening line to “Really Wanna See You,” the lead track on Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else. That line is the beginning of a spate of questionable reasoning by our narrator. She goes to a party, snorts coke, starts crying and wants to call him; she thinks about how “there were times I was such a bitch,” wants to make it up to him and wants to call. She is most likely an unwanted specter of the past that rears its head at an unexpected time. They’ve married, they’ve moved on, do they really need to hear all this?
Somewhere Else is an album that documents how shitty we can be – to others and to ourselves – and how there’s an idealism fueling this that lets us do it over and over again. Lydia Loveless’ third LP is a masterpiece of songwriting swagger. It’s an alt-country record in the truest sense of the term – an album that takes traditional tropes and turns them inside out, examining what’s inside the relationships and beings that inhabit country music. Her characters seethe and writhe and pine in real bodies and minds, not in relationships that are clearly defined by black and white boundaries or stereotypes.
It’s the back half of Somewhere Else that especially defines her talents. “Head,” and its chorus commanding her missing lover not to stop giving her oral sex, is deceptive. What seems merely sexual at first, is more of an expression of deep longing for someone who isn’t there. “Everything’s Gone” is a sorrowful, fearful and angry song that examines the push and pull of where we grew up. But it’s “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” that is Somewhere Else‘s finest song. The title, of course, references the tumultuous romantic relationship between the two symbolist poets, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, which blew up in a tremendous fight in which a drunken and jealous Verlaine shot Rimbaud, wounding his wrist. “Verlaine shot Rimbaud ’cause he loved him so / and honey, that’s how I love you,” sings Loveless. “Don’t have to kick nobody out of the house / they can stick around and watch us duke it out / I just love you so much better when we’re coming to blows,” she adds, painting a picture of a relationship centered on a need to see emotions boil. Whether it’s because her partner is too hard to get any reaction out of, whether they ever show any sort of emotion at all and, truly, anger and violence is preferable to nothing, or whether the narrator is simply a masochistic, drama-fueled person and this is how she sees valid emotions is unclear, but either way it’s the album’s emotional peak.
The record ends with a cover of the late Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know,” a song that closes an album full of heartbreak and self-destructive relationships with a note of idealism. “I don’t listen to the guys who say / that you’re bad for me and I should turn you away / …they’ve never heard of love.” After an album full of scrapping at demons both inward and outward, Loveless invokes the old place where only those within are allowed to criticize. When others do, the wagons are circled, the fires are lit, and, as MacColl wrote and Loveless emotes, “we should just take our chances while we’ve got nothing to lose.” words / j neas