Although this writer has had an unrequited crush on elfish Russian songstress Regina Spektor for years, I recently came to the sad realization that while I imagined the two of us growing together — Spektor perhaps one day recording an album filled with lusty covers of Radiohead lullabies just for me — it was time to move on. Far sounded good at first listen. But I was perhaps drunk off her cuteness. All I can say now is ... oy.
After scouring through the record looking for something to love, it became clear that soundboard behemoths Jeff Lynne (Do you need references? Really?), Jacknife Lee (U2, Weezer) and Mike Elizondo (Jay-Z, Fiona Apple) producing tracks for Far was ultimately to the album's detriment as the record comes off as bipolar and overworked. The lack of cohesion between the tracks makes the record sound like a homemade mix of random tunes you found on Napster back when TLC ruled the radio and Pam Anderson didn't have Hep-C. In fact, Far sounds more akin to the '90s, with its wispy 'n' weak synthy-sweeps and gloss, than it does to this decade. Let's not even go into the Spektor-Carey comparisons. You'd think under the guidance of these producers, Spektor's vocal theatrics would have, as in the past, been kept in check.
"Calculation" opens things very up-tempo, offering most everything we've come to expect from her. It's a cute song with vivid images of kitchens and lovers. It's cool — until, out of nowhere, the chorus turns into an unwelcome jamboree of piano-girl pop a la Vanessa Carlton. "Eet," the first single, is determined yet genteel, though nothing special. Before we get to Spektor's ill-fated foray into piano-ska backed by a Casio keyboard beat machine ("Folding Chairs"), we hear the sad and cinematic "Blue Lips, Blue Veins," which keeps the album from derailing.
Midway through we get "Machine," a mid-'90s post-industrial pop tune that sounds like the darker side of Garbage or maybe t.a.T.u.; you remember — those bi-sexual, Ruski schoolgirl vixens who sang "All The Things She Said." The last line of "Machine" is: "The future: it's here, it's bright, it's now." To quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."
In 1995, Joan Osborne's "One of Us" surely put the lock on God songs. If you want to be literal, it's a hard to sing about the subject, especially in pop. Most who attempt come off as evangelical or worse, achingly corny. And on "Laughing With," let's just say Spektor didn't go for the evangelical. While we're at it, let's just say that Spektor could learn a thing or two from the '90s — like what not to do.
Regina Spektor plays Tuesday, Sept. 15, at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-668-TIME.
Travis R. Wright is the arts and culture editor for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.