Today's formative-album replay: Luscious Jackson Natural Ingredients. There’s not a bad track on this alternately roof-raising and subdued party record from 1994, with its tight production hitting the pocket between somnambulant trip-hop and chest-thumping funk/pop, and its street-smart feminism registering both defiant uplift and cautionary side eye. Not just the sentiments but the sounds have aged well, all the more remarkable given the endearingly artless toasting and plaintive, folkish harmonies of lead vocalists Gabby Glaser and Jill Cunniff; but the big choruses, sharp beats, and deep grooves ground even the album’s flimsiest throwaways (“Here,” “Pele Merengue”), and the whole thing hangs together like a great mix tape.
It must be admitted that after an exceptionally strong opening set--including the chill fray of “Citysong,” the flute-lofted sloganeering of “Strongman” (whose lyric “When a man knows/Where he came from/He can't tell me/I am shameful” should be blasted on a loop directly into the eardrums of Congressional Republicans), the minor-key throb of "Angel," and the album’s signature song, the bouncily downbeat throwdown “Deep Shag,” which manages the trick of being both confessional and prosecutorial toward an esteem-crushing partner--the album's spark of inspiration flags slightly. But just as the party starts to thin out comes the searing, spring-loaded “Surprise,” an ululating lamentation in which wayward sperm comes off as a kind of chemical weapon, after which the shambling “LP Retreat” is a welcome benedictory send-off.
The album is bookended by New York City subway sounds, which in my case made this revisit feel like a homecoming in a way it never could have when I first played it to death on my car stereo in L.A. Surprise, surprise.