This all-female Long Beach band takes pains not to get typecast as the new Go-Gos (although it can be effervescently garagey), the new Bangles (although it can be sleekly poppy) or the new L7 (although it can get momentarily grungy and sometimes likes to talk dirty).
Unfortunately, while avoiding stylistic labels, Somebody's Ex neglects to bring much emotional depth or psychological insight to its work.
Most of "Defective" is well played and sung. Jill Warren writes the songs and has a good ear for mainstream pop melody. She also dabs on some nice guitar touches, acoustic as well as electric. Lisa Wright, who shares the lead vocals with Warren, has a dusky, full-bodied voice that powers the album's best songs: "It's Just the Moon," which echoes the chorus hook of the Rolling Stones' "Sway," and the lush "Through My Eyes," which could well have been overblown but is handled with admirable restraint.
While one can appreciate the band's skills, too many songs seem poorly thought out and lacking in complexity. A funkified version of Leon Russell's oft-covered "Superstar" is tossed off as bland dance-floor fodder. There is a coldly dismissive cast to "F. Defective," which dumps on a woman whose habitual nonconformity has degenerated into self-destruction. And there is little sympathy or understanding at hand in "Juliet," whose protagonist's strait-laced upbringing leaves her sexually repressed. The nadir comes with "(Sex) The Way it Goes," which tears a page from Erica Jong as it trumpets the frank expression of female lust. This sort of bluntly carnal talk is being heralded as a sign of new expressive freedom for women rockers (Liz Phair being Exhibit A), but I'll take a little indirection and artifice any day, regardless of the singer's gender. The great blues singers, for example, always deal in clever euphemism, because it is sexier and more fun than the alternative.
Worst of all, the song blithely counsels unfaithfulness ("Forget your conscience, singe and burn it away") while offering no more motive for the betrayal than a quick assuagement of raging hormones. Maybe Warren just wanted to churn out something that would heat up a bar crowd; a songwriter attuned to the way sex really goes, with its complexities and high emotional stakes, would have intimated the potentially devastating consequences of heeding such a blatant come-on.
Somebody's Ex might partly have redeemed the song by book-ending it immediately with "Pictures of You and Her," which depicts a woman wrung out by her lover's cheating ways. But five songs intervene between the two, so any chance for contrast and cross-current is lost.
(Available at Tower Records in El Toro and Hollywood, Sound Spectrum in Laguna Beach, or through Somebody's Ex, 203 Argonne Ave., Suite 146, Long Beach, CA 90803.