The Sick Lipstick is an example of that rare breed of band that seems to have started out by attempting to replicate five-second segments of Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” and then rearranging those segments into something resembling a song.
The result is, in some ways, more listenable than Reed’s sprawling double-LP mass of seething noise. But the effect of the aural self-torture, the sonic equivalent of wasabi, is still front and center when listening to the Sick Lipstick’s debut full-length album.
“sting sting sting” is something of a marked departure from the group’s previously released works. When they first appeared on a 5 Rue Christine compilation, they seemed to be laying all the cards on the table.
The song “Teenage Robots” was a convincing, if misleading, statement of purpose. Completely rapturous, it sung the praises of a delinquent suburban automaton who is totally unstoppable and wasting away. It took the electro motif of striving for a more robotic existence and infused it with punk vitriol and guitars.
Now, a year later, “sting” sees them, sadly, renouncing their robot heritage and striking out for more accessible sound.
It seems that “Teenage Robots” was simply some kind of gestational period, and the Sick Lipstick, in their full-grown state, are more interested in chants about things like cats and cookies. Where they had once eschewed matters of the flesh, their thoughts now are geared more toward reproduction and eating.
The sound has also changed; where once there were determinant multi-tracked vocals, there is now a kind of weird vulnerability.
On “sting,” singer Lindsey Gillard sounds less like a confident, android revolutionary and more like the long lost, sugar-crazed Powerpuff Girl. It’s a pretty annoying voice at first, too frenzied and self-consciously cute for it’s own good. However, like Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, its uniqueness serves as a good counterpoint for the whirlwind of instrumentation that backs it.
That instrumentation takes the form of guitar, keyboard and drums. For the most part, the keyboard simply stands in for the bass. However, where a bass plunks and grooves, the Sick Lipstick’s keyboard whirrs and jerks like some old dot-matrix printer.
The interplay between the keyboard’s baselines and the East Bay Ray flavored guitar treble overload is the real star of the show. Weaving in and out of would-be hooks and white-noise crescendos, herky-jerky guitar and keyboard riffs make up the Sick Lipstick sound. With minimal evidence of studio magic present, it seems the musicians’ amazing tandem is simply the product of being an incredibly tight, well-practiced unit.
It’s also always a good feeling to pop in a new CD and notice that the 12 tracks fit under the 30-minute mark. Since all the Sick Lipstick’s songs have pretty much the same sound and keep up the same frantic pace, splitting up the cacophony periodically keeps it from bleeding together too much.