Pop Levi (Jonathan James Levi to his friends) caused more than a few ripples of excitement with the release of his début album The Return To Form Black Magick Party in 2007. Swimming very much against the lad rock tide of the era, Levi's smart take on new wave, '70s funk, '60s garage and T-Rex glam seemed like the perfect antidote to testosterone and denim; whilst not the finished article, big things were envisaged for the former Ladytron bassist.
His story wouldn't be the first one that didn't go to plan in rock's pantheon of noble failures, but it's fair to say that any momentum he may have had has long since boiled away. Medicine is another shot at the left leaning extremities of the mainstream, but it's worth noting that it's had an interesting journey, with some of its songs being recorded and then shelved for several years.
Irony being a bitch, much of Medicine sounds far more contemporary than it would've done had it been released in the last decade; opener Strawberry Shake's scuzzy dance punk fuzz and jack hammer drums are long on the twisted club bubblegum vibe, whilst Rock Solid drips with mascara and gutter energy. Levi, it seems, wanted to make an album instilled with rawness and edge, locating himself firmly in maverick territory; a promise to himself that on the likes of Motorcycle 666 he duly fulfils.
The problem is that whilst the attitude is very like-it-or-bite-it right now, the vital ingredients - good songs of course, silly - are in painfully short supply. The title track launches a brief renaissance with its grungey period guitar, whilst the following introspection of Bye-Bye introduces some much needed melody and proves to be the best moment. It's no coincidence that it also lays off the almost omnipresent voice processing which the singer overdoes to a fault on nearly everything else.
It's hard to understand who Medicine has been made for. Those fans still hanging around from the early days will probably be disappointed to find out that the inspiration of early songs like Pick-Me-Up Uppercut and Blue Honey has eluded Levi this time round. Its fractured recording process probably contributed to this sense of dislocation, but it also feels very much like the work of an artist at a crossroads.
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