Corey Lyondell: Damsel Underdressed
Much ink has been spilled on the meteoric rise and the inevitable flame out of the Boston punk-power-pop darlings, The Toddlers. Too much ink. Still, for those who spent the second half of the 90’s in a bomb shelter, the band emerged on the Boston music scene, after the grunge/alternative/Britpop nexus lost its grip on radio to a new wave of nu metal, boy bands, and pop princesses. But The Toddlers never got the memo. Their first two offerings on local indie label Zing showed promise, but it was their third outing Here Come The Toddlers that rocketed them from the doomed Krypton of the Beantown scene into the Milky Way of the national airwaves.
Lead singer/guitarist Anders André, with his Jim Morrison looks and 80’s metal god swagger, seemed to be genetically engineered to be a front man. And just as no amount of shambling charisma and thrift store chic could hide the gleam of ambition in his eye, no amount of eyeliner or irony could conceal lead guitarist and sometimes singer Corey Lyondell’s earnestness. While André shrugged, Lyondell cared.
The question is, will anyone else?
With her solo debut, Damsel Underdressed, the answer is an emphatic yes.
Whatever the reason, André and Lyondell never achieved a Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership. At best, Lyondell was gifted limited real estate on The Toddlers’ albums a la George Harrison, but her tracks were often gems. And whatever the real final straw—the-will-they-or-won’t-they romantic dynamic, her front man’s druggy antics, or quite simply tiring of being relegated to cooing over André’s self-lacerating lyrics—Lyondell emerges from the wreckage of The Toddler’s fully formed, delivering one of the best albums of the 90’s.
Starting with the risqué album cover—which will no doubt be the poster of choice for millions of sensitive frat boys next semester—Damsel announces this isn’t a Toddlers’ production. Gone is the flannel and the curtain of hair hiding her face. Lyondell is seated in profile, topless and shot from behind in a sunlit loft, her arm revealing a sliver of breast. She looks back at the camera cleared-eyed, daring listeners into the distinctly feminine world only hinted at in her handful of tracks with her old band.
Here, she finally gets to spread her wings.
The inescapable single, Limelight, serves as the album’s tongue-in-cheek statement of purpose. “You’re the alpha to my omega/I want to be prime time, want to be mega.” Make no mistake though, Lyondell is only half-joking. The 16 other tracks are a worthy addition to the singer-songwriter canon, with a candor and vulnerability not seen since Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Whereas Exile reveled in its lo-fi sound, Lyondell isn’t afraid of the occasional pop hook.
The shimmering, looping Decelerate closes out this stunning song cycle. If as many frat boys listen to the lyrics as hang the poster, they just might learn something. Regardless, this is a refreshing debut from a powerful female voice.