Remember That I Love You
full-scale retreat from adulthood is apparently underway, and it’s not hard to see why: diminished expectations have crossed the threshold that once made the adult world more appealing than the kiddie one. Putting your money into a toy collection beats putting it into a Social Security account that probably won’t last until retirement, and mom can’t outsource you from the spare room in her basement. Rejuvenile, journalist Christopher Noxon calls the trend in his new book, and if the neologism is bad, it beats the others he lists: Peter-pandemonium, kidult, Twixter, adultescent.
In the limited perspective of Noxon and other yuppie-centric media types, this trend is new, or at least a new incarnation of a cyclical pattern that dates back to dubious characters like JM Barrie and Lewis Carroll. To anyone with ears slightly closer to the grindstone, of course, it’s been going on for a few decades now, under the cuddly auspices of the twee-pop movement. No label has better represented twee regression than Olympia’s own K Records; sure, it occasionally churns out the spare Fitz of Depression blowout, but the label is fundamentally anchored in an ethos of semi-amateurish, endearingly guileless, soft twee that views the world with childlike wonder. No other artist embodies the K aesthetic more than Kimya Dawson (not even label founder Calvin Johnson, whose beat happenings always bore slightly lecherous undercurrents beneath their imploring requests to hold hands and walk home from school together).
Dawson’s new album, Remember That I Love You, sounds exactly as anyone who’s heard her earlier work would expect. Our Lady of the Moldy Peaches strums a rudimentary acoustic guitar, often augmented by various pals on keyboards, mandolin, and whatever else was sitting around the house. These pals also pitch in on frequent backing vocals, helping guide Dawson’s tuneless warble, which only occasionally resolves into an actual melody. More often, she sputters along on a stream of syllables seemingly improvised on the spot; how else to account for the way “Caving In” begins as a kiss-off to a fellow musician who apparently shared his bed but not his heart, then veers suddenly to the Zen-like contemplation, “How will I contain my anger when Delilah plays ‘Unchained Melody’ instead of ‘Lost in Your Eyes’?”
How indeed? In the hands of damn near anyone else, the above paragraph sounds like a recipe for faux-naïve, self-indulgent disaster. Yet Dawson pulls it off, as she repeatedly has in the past, by comprehending the critical function of twee: it’s not supposed to be about feigning wide-eyed wonder to wallow in a retro-childlike vibe (i.e., All-Girl Summer Fun Band), but rather using childlike simplicity to recapture that sense—if not quite the “blooming, buzzing” mass of confusion and endless possibility of which William James wrote, then at least something close, a reality in which affections are not mediated by self-conscious consideration of their impact on the coolness of one’s persona. Thus Dawson can not only embrace Delilah, but even weave her own mixtape-medley into closing tune “My Rollercoaster,” crooning her way through snippets of “On the Road Again,” “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life,” “Life Is a Highway” and others (including a delightfully whispered take on Metallica’s “One”) with an unforced sincerity that puts to shame the pretentious rockist/popist debates. She loves what she loves because she loves it, not because of what it signifies to love it. That applies not just to music but to life; singing touching little ditties to her bed-ridden mother and dancing friends, Dawson makes her formula warm and inviting. Listening, we want her mom to get better, too.
It’s tempting to posit Dawson as the twee-savant complement of Wesley Willis, offering hugs instead of head-butts while meandering unaware through an indie-rock world that values her only because the lack of affectation is a hot commodity in a scene so full of posturing. But doing so fails to acknowledge her half-concealed sophistication; “Loose Lips” contains not just charming instructions for those in need to “send me an IM, I’ll be your friend,” but also a subtle challenge to the Christian Right: “they think we’re disposable, well both my thumbs’re opposable.” “12/26” also delivers surprisingly sharp political commentary on the American government’s reaction to the tsunami tragedy, effectively integrated into some moving verses about the disaster’s human consequences.
OK, it all gets a bit samey in the middle section. But Jake Kelly adds some nice instrumental flourishes (particularly his violin on “Caving In”), and Dawson once again proves winning and convincing as a simple troubadour who’s not a simpleton. With even “minor at heart” Ian MacKaye sounding comfortably middle-aged in the Evens, someone’s gotta represent the youthward-bound adults of the world who aren’t interested in the fetishized navel-gazing of yuppie rejuvenilia. With Remember That I Love You, Kimya Dawson solidifies her claim to that role.
Reviewed by: Whitney Strub
Reviewed on: 2006-05-23