Game Theory leader Scott Miller never made a secret of his fondness for Big Star, and while Real Nighttime favored the lush but direct sound of #1 Record, and The Big Shot Chronicles suggested the harder-edged tone of Radio City, Lolita Nation plays like Game Theory's variation on the themes of Big Star's masterfully damaged swan song, Third/Sister Lovers. Certainly Game Theory's most ambitious album, Lolita Nation was a two-LP set that combined some of Miller's most user-friendly power pop squared off against dark, moody ruminations on betrayal, failed love, and mortality, all of it punctuated with bursts of avant-garde noise and unclassifiable studio doodling, and finally thrown into a sonic Cuisinart through Miller's aggressive use of aural montage. Game Theory's most challenging work, Lolita Nation is a bit disorienting on first listen, though it finds the band playing at the very top of its form on demanding material. New guitarist Donnette Thayer made an impressive debut, and drummer Gil Ray and keyboardist Shelley LaFreniere delivered outstanding performances. There are more than a few flat-out brilliant tracks, such as "Chardonnay," "The Waist and the Knees," and "The Real Sheila," alongside such head-scratchers as "Turn Me on Dead Man," "Watch Who You're Calling Space Garbage Meteor Mouth," and the 22nd track (which stubbornly defies titling). Lolita Nation was the point where the many ideas and approaches Miller had experimented with on Game Theory's earlier albums finally came together in a (pardon the expression) blaze of glory, and if the album is a bit much to absorb on first listen, few rock albums of the '80s reward repeated listening more than this one. Miller was one of the few rock musicians who often (and fittingly) cited James Joyce as an influence, and Lolita Nation is his Ulysses, a dense, profoundly idiosyncratic masterpiece.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
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