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Jane Wiedlin | Kissproof World | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop
Kissproof World (Painful)
by Jamie Kiffel
The stars are in alignment for this disc. A year earlier, popsters would have laughed at ex-Go-Go Jane Wiedlin's attempt to step back into the rotating rainbow lights. But today, glittering in the rhinestoned day-glo of the current '80s revival, Jane is back on the scene with her fabulously kitschy, woman-girl voice, tunes as tight as old A-ha, and a fizzy sound with a kick of maturity, like Go-Go's pop turned to Wiedlin champagne.
Aging anything from the '80s is a tricky business - it was a bad vintage, meant to be drunk before it turned as flat as that decade's hairdos. But Wiedlin has the conditions all right. Instead of breaking out her crusty, old Pizazz gel, shrunken, acid-washed denim or one gigantic earring in hopes that they'll make her look the same way they did 20 years ago (and rotting the whole thing right there), Wiedlin reinvents herself as a punk-rooted shocker with a sweet smile. On the disc's cover photo, she wears a pleather, silver lace-up dress, blue, opera-length gloves, a Betty Page wig and a pink pucker. On the back, she roars in a shocking red corset. She's different from what she was, but she hasn't lost her edge.
The music is equally triumphant in its translation from punky pop to millennial music. Realizing that the synthesizer is no longer seen as a viable replacement for a musical education, Wiedlin has created hot, quick songs - with keyboards plus guitars and drums - keeping the high-speed, heavy hook appeal of her Go-Go's days. Notably, the songs are all collaborations with other artists, originally written to sell (Jane had Veruca Salt and Kiss in mind for some). But Wiedlin's voice, which unmistakably cut its teeth on bands like The Bangles, early Madonna and Joan Jett, turns what might only be good songs into a guilty pleasure. But most importantly, this disc has the barbs it needs to cut fresh blood out of a dead decade: the barbs of life experience. As it says right on the cover, "Warning! Jane Wiedlin contains adult content." When you knew her as a Go-Go, Jane might have had angst. But at a great-looking 40-something, Jane can lick into lousiness like a woman who's seen it.
"The Good Wife" is an addictive gem of an example, where Jane uses her divorce as stinging fodder for a Hedda Gabler-like character who's "sweet on the outside, rotten within/polite on the edges, and mean in between." The lyrics lick like an iodine-coated tongue in a wound. "Die Now! Pay Later!" is another deliciously sharp slice at life, as Wiedlin sings about "premature evacuation, early retirement... as seen on TV." The smooth, clever phrasing, paired with a pop bite at advertising, verges on Chumbawamba. The title song, "Kissproof World," also comments on absurd ad culture (kissproof lipstick), while giving the audience something to walk away humming.
If you think you liked the '80s, this is the stuff of reminiscence: pop the way you remember it, better than it really was. All the punch is here, with nostalgia for something brand new.
(109 North Hobart Bvd Los Angeles, CA 90004)