'The Blow' Puts An Artsy, Electro-Pop Spin On Attraction

Oct 14, 2013
Originally published on October 22, 2013 9:04 am

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of the new album, "The Blow" by the music and performance are duo called The Blow which was conceived by its singer, Khaela Maricich. Melissa Dyne plays a more behind the scenes role, arranging, mixing and co-producing much of this new collection. The music made by The Blow can be broadly labeled as electro pop, but Ken says it goes further than that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A KISS")

KHAELA MARICICH: (singing) The kiss was just some thing to do with my tongue until you kissed me. The kiss was just some thing to do with my tongue until you kissed me.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: The kiss was just some thing to do with my tongue until you kissed me, Khaela Maricich sings on that song, "A Kiss." The wry humor is typical. The music made by The Blow is affective in part because it combines catchy keyboard riffs, synthesizers and percussion, with what The Blow's MySpace page describes as, quote, "lyrics that sound like unverbalized(ph) thoughts set to basic pop melodies." I could quibble that setting unverbalized down as words is, well, verbalizing them. But who wants to quibble when music sounds as good, as intriguing, as this?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

MARICICH: (singing) He wants to talk to you because you're a girl, and he likes girls. We all like girls. I flash my powder-pink passport and I walked right through. Walked up to. I'm glad to see you got in too, and you and me are free because they'd never guess what you might do. Gather 'round, looking for the things that we've never seen, done. And when we find the ones, it's the most fun. I'll let you try them out on me 'cause you're the girl.

TUCKER: "The Blow" as an album, coheres around a couple of notions. The first is the creation of an extremely self-conscious narrator. I heard a rumor that I was amazing, goes a line in a song called "I Tell Myself Everything." When you walked out I lost control of my mouth, and now it seems it's stuck in this ambiguous pout. That's the beginning of another tune, "Invisible." The character created by The Blow is a likable narcissist, self absorbed in a way that still invites self identification in you and I, the listeners.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INVISIBLE")

MARICICH: (singing) When you walked out I lost control of my mouth, and now it seems it's stuck in this ambiguous pout. I really don't know what to do without you. Little things like my face and my body, and what about clothes, that they invented those. The single purpose of your taking them off me. I even put them on, it all feels so wrong without you. I really don't know what to do without you. And thoughts seem...

TUCKER: The other idea around which The Blow organizes itself are those never fail, pop music themes of romance and sex. There's a bit of angst here and there, on "I Tell Myself Everything" there's the tart phrase, pleasure writes pure, good songs. But a lot of this album is about breezy flirting, about trying to convey through melody and ordinary language, the deep mysteries of attraction and allure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

MARICICH: (singing) I knew what love was, that never ceased. I thought I knew what love was, but (unintelligible) never shown us. We went looking for love but we might have to make it up, make, make it up, make it up. I knew what love was...

TUCKER: As groovy as this music frequently sounds, these are not conventional would be pop stars. Maricich is the sort of artist who can refer un-ironically to her music as a text to be deconstructed. Her Blow partner, Melissa Dyne - serving as Blow's co-producer, arranger and stage show designer - also has a career as a maker of site-specific, art objects. Of course, you could say the same thing about Miley Cyrus and her VMA performance, as site-specific and art performance piece as mass America has seen in a while. But even as The Blow women place their music in an art world context, the reason their stuff works, the reason it's not, in other words, that dreaded thing, art rock, is because it never denies its intellectual spirit, its own fleshly desires.

GROSS: Ken Tucker reviewed The Blow's new album by the same name. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.