From New York, Lulu Lewis are husband and wife duo of Pablo Martin (Tom Tom Club, The Du-Rites) and Dylan Hundley (Metropolitan) and we’ve been raving about them for a while here on VS. They’ve been putting in the hours in darkened rooms in the five boroughs, and sharing stages with the likes of Lenny Kaye and Richard Lloyd, and collaborating with the funkiest drummer in post punk, Fugazi & Messthetics Brendan Canty and now they’ve just released their debut album “Genuine Psychic” on their own Illegalia Records.
It’s a record that could have come from nowhere else but New York, swaggering, confident, moody and dark, like Kohl eyeliner on a raven picking on the gizzards helping itself to the American Eagle. Lulu Lewis join a pantheon of punk greats (and undoubted influences) from the City, most notably Blondie, Suicide, the Contortions and Sonic Youth and they completely hold their own. And then some. It careens from ice cool dead eyed dread to windswept psych outs, simple punk poetry to wilful wicked humour.
Here’s my track-by-track analysis, hold tight.
GONE TO LA
Coming on strong like Johnny Marr playing Curve’s “Fait Accompli”, Dylan sounds like Wendy James on the sweet notes, and Katiejane Gartside on the snarling stings in the lyrical tails. Singing of someone heading to hang with bigger bands, it’s chagrin mixed with chillblains, an accessible opening to a gritty punk romp.
CITY BELOW THE HUNTER
Dylan is truly a vocalist of many timbres, here with an Anglicized twang that’s part Toyah part Kate Bush. Martin’s cutting guitar twang is totally Banshees, and the melancholic synth like The Human League sampling the nuclear “Protect & Survive” films of the 80s. You feel like you might have heard this emanate from the Blitz club, other than the modern and American lyrical barb “At Bloodbath & Beyond” (a shop presumably where only the brave dare to buy a bog brush). This couldn’t be cooler, and surely must only be sung while leaning on the mic like Julian Cope and wearing inscrutable shades, while Hundley throws some heavy shade at anyone who dares enter her disguised eyeline.
Baroque, and pizzicato, with “la, la, la” lyrics the atmospheric title track evoques Hans Christian-Anderson’s grizzly fair tales and could easily have been on the soundtrack to “Killing Eve” or “Les Revenants”. It made me shiver (and it’s the height of summer). And given that it’s “Genuine Psychic” Lulu Lewis will have seen that reaction coming.
Big pummelling Dave Barbarossa style tribal drums, and Kat Bjelland style sing-speak vocals, and we’re further into that enchanted fairy tale forest. Hopefully we’ve left a breadcrumb trail to find our way out of the circling foggy gloom. When the organ kicks in you have expect the Phantom of the Opera to appear to sing the music of the night. This is the tune the Raveonettes wish they had written. The almost cutesy “Give me your hands hun” line is positively sinister with this devil’s music as the score.
The guitar dissonance is pure Sonic Youth “Evol” era and the haunted vocals almost Karen O-esque with their wide and wild eyed childlike quality. Compared to “Dig Beat” this one is stripped right back to bleak basics, C86 via The Raincoats. It’s a moment of hushed calm before the inevitable storm.
INTELLIGENT LIFE (FEAT. BRENDAN CANTY)
The ante is well and truly upped, the “tectonic plates that form the lithosphere” are truly shifting. The searchlight synth line and the syncopated drum skitters and funky toms drive it on, while the alien looking on earth viewpoint of the lyrics have a wilful fun about them that’s pure Rezillos, and when the organ gets full-on BBC Radiophonic orchestra Dr. Who, the tongue is firmly in cheek. But what a romp! Sure to be a livewire live favourite.
This is the goth punk equivalent of Banarama’s “Cruel Summer”. We’re well and truly and out of the forest and into the oppressive heat of the urban jungle, like Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” – something’s gotta give. Praying for the storm, hoping for El Nino, it’s steamy stuff. There’s definitely a funky Tom Tom Club thing going on at the low end, with a squidgy bleep and a caterwauling synth line really evocative of the melting maelstrom.
ONE NOTE ROCK & ROLL
The first song I ever heard by Lulu Lewis it still brings a chill of excitement, a Roxy Music rhythm, James Chance style brass and an icy cool delivery a la Yanna Trace of Big Stick or Laurie Anderson. An insistent chug, a Big Apple exuberance, and buckets full of attitude, irresistible. E
ROCK THE DEER
Hammer House of Horror Hammond, and acid-infused humour, it’s big and silly, a full on blast of the cobwebs, and a song that’s deer to our hearts.
The Cure “A Forest” meets Sonic Youth “Little Trouble Girl” – it’s high on atmosphere, with off-kilter key change, breathy vocals and a killer bass-line. It’s the cliff-hanger at the end of a cinematic wilderness adventure of an album. Like an encounter with a grizzly bear up Fifth Avenue it’s an unexpected rush in widescreen that will have you screaming with fear and adrenalised delight.
You can get “Genuine Psychic” right here, right now…
Check out Lulu Lewis’ recent Lucky 7 for VS…
Also, here’s a “song for ewe” from Brendan Canty…