STE is right about Rilo Kiley Mach II: Jenny Lewis’ control is as inexorable as Natalie Merchant’s over the 10,000 Maniacs circa Our Time in Eden. I say for the better: on their previous albums (the ones I could listen to all the way without getting up to make a Denver omelet), Blake Sennett made the usual mistake of perfecting songcraft at the expense of rhythm and weirdness; and while Lewis’ songs still deny the former, they’re long on the latter. Never mind the encyclopedic pop ambitions of Under The Blacklight — this is a woman whose appetites are so strong that she’ll sate them anywhere and anytime, and whose own songcraft almost matches her emotional demands. Unfortunately, the Lewis regime is hell on her bandmates, all of whom to a man are indistinguishable from any Grade B studio hack. Sennett’s one tune evokes, as Joshua Klein pointed out, Mirage-era Fleetwood Mac, alas: like Lindsay Buckingham on the reified followup to Tusk, Sennett sounds embarrassed if not declawed, as if he’d been on the wrong end of a lecture. The mix is laxative-smooth; it could be the indie-pop Gaucho (with his work here and on Maroon 5’s latest, Mike Elizondo could be repping for Gary Katz’s cred). Hook her up with, say, Lloyd Cole, Fred Maher, and Matthew Sweet, and you may get first-rate adult entertainment.
A couple of other reviews (including Erlewine’s) suggest that Lewis is striving to be her generation’s Anais Nin or something. “There is nothing but bad sex here,” Erlewine writes. As if! (can’t you enjoy bad sex?). Perhaps if Lewis ditched these guys and started to limn the rich showbiz kid life for material instead of teasing us we’d really get the Gaucho we deserve; as the sassy Dusty in Memphis-inspired “45” intimates, she’s smart enough to let her lyrics delineate the irony that her big voice is incapable of embracing.