Worked up so retrosexual,
This review is from: Retrosexual (Audio CD)
"Cause while you're busy messing up/I'm earnestly copping some licks!" Apparently that's just what she did -- Bebe Buell is known for being the mother of actress Liv Tyler, and the ex-paramour of quite a few rock stars. Guess what: she's a rocker in her own right, and "Retrosexual" (recently rereleased) proves that.
Hard-edged rock opens up the album, with the grinding guitars and bass of "Gargoyle" and the percussion/bass smack-down of "Lust Never Sleeps." She gets romantic in "Cosmic Kiss," with lines like "wrap me up in your cosmic kiss/I always wanted it to feel like this." But she sticks close to the grittier side of rock, even giving a solid, catchy cover to Johnny Thunders' "Little Bit O' Whore."
A bit of Buell's own life seeps in, as she talks about a "a girl, a girl/a princess who couldn't take care of herself" who learns how to rock on her own. "Claw Bite" deserves special notice. It's a bouncy, peppy rocker, and probably the best song I've ever heard about "lobster boys." I dare you not to start grinning at this one.
Strictly speaking, "Retrosexual" is not a new album -- it's a collection of Buell's work from over many years, now collected on CD rather than vinyl. Bebe is not up to the level of Joan Jett and other female rock giants, but she obviously has the snarl, swagger and smile for the job. I guess you can't run with rock stars for thirty-plus years without getting a knack for it.
Buell has a pretty solid rock voice, throaty and snarly. She's also able to purr her songs in a way that's both threatening and sultry. It's a bit offputting when she lets rip with some high-pitched squeals in "Claw Bite," though. Her songwriting is clumsy in places ("Cover me in your lonesome fire/Speak to me with your cross-fire choir"), but the flaws are easy to overlook.
And Buell lets the spotlight shine on the assorted musicians who back her up; in the first song, she stops singing to let the guitars and bass take center stage. The instrumentation is quite solid, although done by different people over the years. It could use a bit less of that hard-rock/metal crunching, but it has the garagey feel to pull it off.
Bebe Buell's backload of songs is not perfect, but "Retrosexual" does prove that she didn't cop those licks in vain. Fun, rockin' and worth checking out.