After her major comeback with 1989's Kite, English singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl was on a roll, and she quickly followed this up with 1991's Electric Landlady. However, despite the droll title (a goof on the Jimi Hendrix classic Electric Ladyland), MacColl's lyrics on this album are generally more earnest and less biting than those on her previous LP. This is especially true in her social commentary, as she makes an anti-war statement on "Children of the Revolution," calls for appreciation of family on "The Hardest Word," touches upon various environmental ills on "Maybe It's Imaginary," and addresses homelessness and urban squalor on "Walking Down Madison" (a massive UK hit, and a surprise minor hit in the US). Still, her catchy melodies, pleasant voice, and often deadpan delivery keep her more socially conscious songs from becoming too heavy-handed.
EL also offers a more diverse sound than the Brit-pop-heavy Kite, ranging from the countryish "Maybe It's Imaginary," to the hip-hop-flavored "Walking Down Madison," to the sassy Latin-tinged single "My Affair" (a sort of precursor to her final album, 2000's Tropical Brainstorm), to Celtic folk ballads ("The Hardest Word" and the self-deprecating "The One and Only"). There are a lot of power-popish tunes here, as well (my favorite being the jangly single "All I Ever Wanted," which Kirsty wrote with American power-pop maestro Marshall Crenshaw); but even so, most of these are accompanied by strings ("Children of the Revolution" and the witty "He Never Mentioned Love"), horns ("My Way Home"), or both ("Halloween"). While MacColl's then-husband/producer Steve Lillywhite would later suggest that "some songs in retrospect would have benefited from more straightforward pop beats," I must admit I respectfully disagree -- I think EL's varied instrumental colors have made it a far more interesting record than it might've been if Kirsty and company had merely repeated the formula of her previous album.
Electric Landlady was the second of two albums MacColl released on the Virgin label; earlier this year, EMI/Virgin reissued both this album and Kite, expanding them with bonus tracks. Unfortunately, only 5 extras (all B-sides) are offered here, including a cover of the cutesy ditty "Darling Let's Have Another Baby" (recorded as a fun, hard-rocking duet by Kirsty and British protest singer Billy Bragg), a cover of the painfully earnest eco-anthem "Don't Go Near the Water" (a lesser-known Beach Boys song), and one remix each of "Walking Down Madison" and "My Affair."