Polymath provocateur Lydia Lunch has a storied artistic hysterie that should be required reading (and listening) for any radical humanist and sex positive feminist. Unlike some of her No Wave and punk rock peers, Lunch’s recent output just as easily reveals the mesmerically incisive bite that defines her iconic works from decades past. Her latest record, a collaboration with Cypress Grove, is no different.
On a A Fistful of Desert Blues, Lunch brings her outlaw oeuvre West. “The desert speaks to the fugitive in me” she purrs on the album opener, “Sandpit.” “Can anyone ever be truly free if they can’t outrun their own shadow?” she asks. The songs following seem to answer this question, with lyrics painting bitter and bloody romantic landscapes dotted with invectives on loss and the passage of time. When speaking in swirling cadences, Lunch’s voice is sharp, deep in her throat, and scraped with grit – an otherworldly vocal fry. When she sings, her doubled vocals are haunted and lust-lorn as ever, melting into Cypress Grove’s lap steel parts infused with spaghetti western flourishes.
Reflecting the desert in its extremes, cold and quiet one moment, raging and hot the next, A Fistful of Desert Blues moves swiftly from sparse acoustic dirges (see: “Devil Winds” and “I’ll Be Damned”) to electric sing-a-longs with grinding rhythms (“Summer of My Disconnect” and “End of My Rope” will slay you). These wind-whipped hymns to the wide open were written to ricochet off cliffs and fade slowly like the embers of a dying campfire. Lunch’s scorched desert blues is nothing if not transportive.
(Bonus points for the killer Ultra Limited Bag version of this release from Rustblade, which comes stocked with vinyl, CD, flask and pill box, so you can soak yourself in whisky and your pharmaceutical of choice while partaking in these wicked Western sounds.)