Quirk Your Enthusiasm (18)
August 18, 2016
One of 25 installments in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite New Wave songs from c. 1977–1982. Josh Glenn’s series introduction is here, and you can listen to the QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist here. Enjoy!
“LUCKY NUMBER” | LENE LOVICH | 1978
“Ah-Ooh-AH-Ooh!” — four notes that were to New Wave’s Warholian insurgency what the opening figure of Beethoven’s Fifth was to the high seriousness that persisted from the classical period through the self-importance of mid-1970s pop. Emulating some early telecommunications tone but produced with nothing but Lene Lovich’s weird supersonic voice, this nonsense birdcall was like the dial-up to a new dimension of arch’n’arty pop culture. Lovich’s squeaky, staccato, hairpin-turn vocals blueprinted everything from the chirps of Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio to the histrionically ornamented style David Bowie used a year or two after Lovich’s solo debut on his own Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). “Lucky Number” was source code for the New Wave movement, but these days Lovich is somewhat buried beneath everything she influenced. Some revolutions start so early hardly anyone notices at the time; the Eastern Bloc chic that the Detroit-born, Serbian-rooted Lovich employed in her videos and the mystic-peasant aesthetic that inspired her costuming were transgressive symbols in the Cold War marketplace, and a direct anticipation of the ethnic-music boom and Balkan mystique that would wash over the West after European communism fell. “Lucky Number”’s clipped cadence and cheeky scientific and mathematical jargon were emblematic of the mischievous precision and burlesqued authority of New Wave in general, with uncommon chops that indicated just how daringly she was paring down (historically Lovich could be seen as a kind of evolutionary double-helix of Devo and Kate Bush). The self-possessed sexuality of this song and Lovich’s overall presentation would be rare for another generation (and with ten more layers of clothes than Madonna), and she couldn’t help infusing her music with genuine, generous humor — though studied coldness was the New Wave standard, this was no case of, ahem, numb and number. “Lucky” was an unsentimental, unapologetic love song of sorts, which had no hesitancy to put one and one together.
QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Mark Kingwell on Soft Cell’s TAINTED LOVE | Joanne McNeil on Gary Numan’s METAL | Devin McKinney on Suicide’s FRANKIE TEARDROP | Douglas Wolk on Family Fodder’s SAVOIR FAIRE | Elina Shatkin on Marianne Faithfull’s BROKEN ENGLISH | Steph Burt on Altered Images’ HAPPY BIRTHDAY | Greg Rowland on Jilted John’s JILTED JOHN | Gordon Dahlquist on XTC’s RESPECTABLE STREET | Adrienne Crew on D-Day’s TOO YOUNG TO DATE | Jonathan Lethem on The Blue Nile’s I LOVE THIS LIFE | Josh Glenn on Tim Curry’s I DO THE ROCK | Molly Wright Steenson on Missing Persons’ WORDS | Anthony Miller on The Nails’ 88 LINES ABOUT 44 WOMEN | Luc Sante on The Normal’s WARM LEATHERETTE | Mimi Lipson on Dolly Mixture’s HOW COME YOU’RE SUCH A HIT WITH THE BOYS, JANE? | Tim Carmody on Talking Heads’ LIFE DURING WARTIME | Ingrid Schorr on Ian Dury’s CLEVOR TREVER | Adam McGovern on Lene Lovich’s LUCKY NUMBER | Deb Chachra on Rough Trade’s HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL | Tor Aarestad on Oingo Boingo’s LITTLE GIRLS | David Smay on The B-52’s’ DANCE THIS MESS AROUND | Jessamyn West on Blondie’s HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE | Drew Daniel on The Human League’s MARIANNE | Erik Davis on Tuxedomoon’s TIME TO LOSE | Dan Fox on Thomas Dolby’s EUROPA & THE PIRATE TWINS.
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