RePLAY is the little indulgent side of us coming out – every so often we’ll revisit a forgotten song or album, something that perhaps would have been better championed at the time with the existence of social media. In other words, if you didn’t listen to these at the time, you really should now. First we looked at Nerina Pallot’s Fires; today it’s Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins’ Rabbit Fur Coat.
We recently opined the virtues of Rilo Kiley’s Rkives, a lesson on how the off-cuts of a defunct band can still put contemporary albums to shame. But from the ashes of that band rose Jenny Lewis and her solo(-ish) debut, not to mention our first proper introduction to alt-country / lite-Americana.
The album kicks off with Lewis’s menacing Run Devil Run, ably flanked by the Watson Twins, who sadly have never really relived the brilliance of this record in their own career. But it’s Rise Up With Fists that the album truly pumps up a notch – it’s simple storytelling, laced with Lewis’s idiosyncratic irony. She tackles the dark side of the American Dream, in this case therapy and evangelism, with laconic barbs and melodic panache.
And it’s with a middle triplet that Rabbit Fur Coat truly reveals Lewis’s talent as a songwriter. You Are What You Love is a furious, flurried deconstruction of the self; Melt Your Heart is an uncomfortable letter to a troubled relationship; and The Charging Sky’s buoyant country twang once again reveals a darker cross-section of Middle America.
At the time of its release, there were complaints from some quarters that Lewis’s writing was too simple, too sledgehammer to ever be of worth. Granted it lacks the depth of a, say, Lucinda Williams, but the magic lies in this very simplicity. There’s a lot of subtle anger in Rabbit Fur Coat, but all directed so pointedly and creatively that it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Lewis stands up with Cat Power and Neko Case as a pillar of the genre, and Rabbit Fur Coat a modern-country masterpiece.