Laura Dawn


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While Laura Dawn doesn't break free from the stylistic boundaries of her apparent influences -- Garbage, Liz Phair, Alanis Morissette, and PJ Harvey -- her debut does deliver a few knockout punches due to the excellent production work of Ted Niceley (Fugazi, Shudder to Think) who keeps a sharp yet commercially viable edge to the singer/songwriter's mix of post-punk anger, grrrl-folk anxiety, and singer/songwriter pop. Although most of the songs, like the title track with its swirling guitars and sexually provocative lyrics, don't break new ground, the tough melodies and tensile nature of the music keep the tunes fresh. As comfortable with acoustic guitar and stark accompaniment on "Useless in L.A." and "I Would" as with the more aggressive tracks that comprise the heart of the album, Dawn swings from post-punk folk sweetness to the angry rock growl and peppy "doo-doo-doos" of "The Best Part" while maintaining a savvy pop streak. There's a fair amount of filler on this rather long 16-cut release; a few tunes seem extended beyond their breaking point, and some of Dawn's more obvious attempts at a singalong radio hit such as "Wasted" and "Love You Less" sound contrived, especially when she flippantly curses. A few of the lighter-waving ballads like "Hang On" are major missteps for an artist who aims for the street cred which comes naturally to Phair, and the occasional strings are generally unnecessary. But this is still a sturdy debut from a remarkably assured singer/songwriter with a knack for writing songs and hooks that sound familiar on first listen. A raucous and not entirely successful six-minute cover of Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire" (which goes on about three minutes too long) is not listed on the sleeve, but is noted in the booklet and closes out this impressive disc on an assertive note.

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