...just like a pill? Most of ‘Try This’ is like being sold a dog-worming tablet...
It starts brilliantly. Creaking into action with a gritty and choppy riff, ‘Trouble’ sees [a]Pink[/a] icepick her way back into the world, rasping and croaking on about what a bad girl she is (i)exactly(i) like a Lady Josh Homme. Which, is of course, just about the best thing in the world that anybody could hope to be.
It’s easy to forget just how far Philadelphia’s Alecia Moore has come. A snotty kid from the wrong side of the tracks (admittedly being a 4 Non Blondes fan must have chinked her credibility, but still), she broke free of the city’s druggy underworld and scored her big break in an ill-fated girl group masterminded by R&B kingpin Antonia ‘LA Reid’. When the group flatlined, Alecia was kept on and moulded into [a]Pink[/a], the kind of playa-hatin’ R&B starlet that was so ‘marketable’ at the turn of the century. Her debut, ‘Can’t Take Me Home’ displayed a venomous talent, but it still left her overshadowed by that other wild-haired she-warrior of the time, [a]Kelis[/a]. Knowing exactly what was wrong, she went behind Reid’s back, stole Linda Perry’s phone number from her make-up artist’s phone book and pestered her until she agreed to co-write her second album. The result, ‘Missundaztood’ was a classic pop epiphany, and actually a very good alt.rock record. Arista were furious, but by then the record was made, and the quality of the record vindicated everyone involved. For all its soft-rock stylings, it still boasted the best sequence of four singles from any album in recent memory, the effortlessly fun ‘Get The Party Started’; the endearingly clunky self-hate anthem ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me’, and two genuinely breathtaking accounts of abusive love; through pathological sex ( ‘Just Like A Pill’) and useless parents ( ‘Family Portrait’) respectively. The record sold double its predecessor and turned Perry, then scraping a living playing the clubs, into the most in-demand songwriters in the world. [a]Pink[/a] won.
Which is great news for her, but doesn’t bode especially well for the follow-up. ‘Missundaztood’ was so remarkable because it was a mainstream major label pop record that seethed with genuine human struggle and dysfunction. In its way, it was just as 4 Real as anything by the [a]Strokes[/a]; the sound of a woman kicking and punching against those who sought to undermine her. And what’s the primary message of the next song on from ‘Trouble’? [I]”If God is a DJ and life is a dancefloor, love is the rhythm and you are the music”[/I]. Clearly, ‘Try This’ isn’t going to be her ‘In Utero’. Instead, its 14 reasons why major label A&R teams should just leave talented people well alone. There’s been a lot of money spent on ‘Try This’; glossy alternative guitars, expensive ‘gritty’ production, self-conscious bad girlisms and a handful of genuinely great songs, but it’s ultimately toothless, and [a]Pink[/a] has taught us to expect more.
What we get is her victory lap, from tributes to the good times ‘Tonight’s The Night’ ( ‘Get The Party Started’ divided by three) and drippy ballads like ‘Love Song’ ([I]”this is my very first love song that didn’t end in tears”[/I]). You just wish somebody this smart and sussed had spent the time thinking up something to say. Even the steamy girl-on-girl fantasy with [a]Peaches[/a] , ‘Oh My God’, sounds like premeditated targeting of the ‘the lesbian demographic’; dulled further now that we know that [a]Pink[/a] isn’t a real lesbian and neither is [a]Peaches[/a] anymore. The clincher of everything that’s wrong with ‘Tri This’ comes with ‘Save My Life’, a perfectly agreeable pop tragedy that tells the tale of a girl fucked up by bad drugs and worse men. But by the third chorus it hits you – ‘Missundaztood’ was the sound of that girl singing [I]herself[/I].
Nobody’s expecting [a]Pink[/a] to be Brody Armstrong – her unique position of on the cusp of two worlds makes her far more interesting anyway. She just needs to wrestle back some control over her music. And really, [a]Pink[/a] seems like a nice person and we’re glad she’s happy, but could she not have locked herself away with some Sylvia Plath books for a month before recording it or something?
To its credit, ‘Try This’ is the first [a]Pink[/a] record to properly showcase her extraordinary voice – something which has only previously been seen at her live shows. And she’s still the most valuable popstar we have; but just like a pill? Most of ‘Try This’ is like being sold a dog-worming tablet. And who wants to try [I]that[/I]?
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