Pop Levi’s previous album, Never Never Love, found the L.A. transplant expanding the glammy T. Rex-inspired rock & roll of his debut album into something much more funky and Prince-inspired. Medicine cuts a lot of the stuttering beats and near-hip-hop swagger in favor of something much more focused with a classic rock strut. It took Levi at least one try (initial attempts at a third album were shelved) and four years to record the album, and the time and effort seem to have stripped away a lot of the offbeat shimmer and shine from his sound. Most of the record is very straight-ahead and trad-sounding, with tracks like “Motorcycle 666” and “Rock Solid” hitting the rock & roll nail right on the head, featuring pummeling beats and raw guitars. Other tracks have the bluesy cockwalk of the Black Crowes (“Terrifying,” “Medicine” ), the herky jerk feel of the Hives played with the precision of the Strokes (“Midnite Runaround,” “Police Sign”), and only a tiny bit of the robotic funk of the last album (“Strawberry Shake”), this time played with more guitar-heavy bite. While Levi does play a pretty convincing rocker with his elfin, Bolan-pretty voice and the nicely punchy production, the songs overall come off a little clichéd, and the process of stripping down the sound removed too much of what was interesting (weirdness, unexpected rhythms, and a nice sense of anything goes) on Levi’s previous efforts. Only the bouncy “Records” captures the feel of Never Never Love, so much so that it sounds like maybe it’s a carryover from the previously recorded and shelved sessions. Oddly, where the album works best is on the ballads, where Levi forgets about rocking and lets sweet melodies and possibly some real emotion take over. “Coming Down” has a very pretty melody on the verses and an insistent chorus that builds powerfully and “Bye Byes” is a loping, acoustic love-lost song that comes closest to exposing the real Levi. Though the rest of the album is enjoyable enough as a mindless diversion, maybe getting back to some weirdness and dropping in the occasional moment of real feeling might help the next record be more satisfying. As it is, Medicine can’t help but be a mild disappointment.
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Review by Tim Sendra