Review by DAN MACINTOSH
Jesika von Rabbit is a wacky – but cool – artist from Joshua Tree, and Dessert Rock on the Dionysus Records label is Rabbit’s second solo album. The result is a fun and creative effort.
This artist leaves no question about her musical roots with one track titled “Palm Springs Livin’,” which reads like a Coachella Valley travelogue, yet sounds like Nina Hagen playing the tour guide. It’s a funky track is built upon a hip-hop-ish percussion bed, and a vocal inspired by old school New York rap. Think Grandmaster Flash-meets-new wave.
Listen to ‘Dessert Rock’ on Spotify
Von Rabbit Blends Hip-Hop with Sincerity
In stark contrast, von Rabbit closes this project with a beautiful and completely sincere cover of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” Sans her usual army of instrumentation, this track is little more than von Rabbit’s vulnerable singing voice placed over a folkish-ly strummed acoustic guitar. When the song gets to a guitar solo, though, it’s a twangy, Chris Isaak-worthy moment.
This recording proves two things. First, is that von Rabbit has a sincerely expressive singing voice, which can melt your heart – exactly the way this track heats it up. Secondly, Boy George and Culture Club are severely underrated. Underneath all the Tammy Bakker-worthy makeup, George is a master pop songwriter. It’s clear von Rabbit recognizes George’s talent, which is why she pours so much heart into her recording.
Old School-Inspired Modern Sound
Although von Rabbit surrounds herself with multiple modern musical elements, one titled “Innuendo” comes off like a bit of a throwback. It features rumbling drums and groovy, garage rock-ish keyboard. Even its synth part is old school-inspired. Its chorus of, “Let’s love again, baby,” also acts as a strike against modern day cynicism. The song’s outro is a quiet acoustic piano part.
“Going Down” is another memorable track with enjoyable, yet differing, throwback credentials. With its spooky electronic elements, it recalls the pioneering dance sounds of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky. It’s both moody and meditative. “The Mushroom Haired Girl” is another track that creates a sonic vibe. With its insistent groove, it sucks you in like one of those great Brian Eno/David Byrne musical experiments.
Expect the Unexpected with ‘Dessert Rock’
Some of von Rabbit’s influences are unusual and unexpected. The rhythm track for “Children of The Dust,” for instance, comes straight out of pre-MTV success The Cars. Lyrically and vocally, though, Siouxsie Sioux is recalled. It’s a strangely wonderful mix. Then, seemingly to show us just how many tricks she has up her sleeve, von Rabbit sings “My Medicine” with a conspicuously Elvis-y vocal tone.
There’s a lot going on with Jesika von Rabbit’s Dessert Rock, all of it good. Her influences are bravely all over the map, yet she doesn’t sound too much like any single one of them. It all makes for a consistently adventurous listening experience.