Lydia Lunch is dangerous. She’s as punk rock as Jello Biafra, as jazzily poetic as Tom Waits and as psychosexually creepy as Nick Cave, with a breathy-orgasmic voice. The fact that she isn’t as well known as any of those men is a crime.
She comes on like a beatnik witch on her newest release, Smoke in the Shadows, swinging from Waits-y spoken word to whispery torch song and Debbie Harry rap. Though she is known for her fiery socio-political commentary, she keeps it to a minimum here, instead sticking to personal (or at least through a persona) songs and noir poetry, over jazzy-funky tracks featuring guitarist Nels Cline, saxophonist Niels Van Hoorn of the Legendary Pink Dots, and backup vocals by Carla Bozulich of Geraldine Fibbers fame, among others.
Standout tracks include the sexy-sleazy runaway song “Touch My Evil,” which brings to mind Juliette Lewis’s sexy murderess from Natural Born Killers, the thoroughly erotic “Sway,” which may include the sexiest-ever pronunciation of “nocturnal emissions,” and the closer “Hot Tip,” which makes great use of Bozulich’s amazing voice.
The best thing about Lydia Lunch is that no matter what she’s doing: singing, speaking, writing, filming, or even rapping, as she does here, and no matter how she’s doing it, she never fails to provoke and subvert expectations. She’s so brazen, so cocky, with such Mae West swagger that you fall utterly under her spell, even when she’s doing something you never expected her to do.