Colleen Green, ‘Sock It To Me’ – Album Review
Colleen Green’s debut LP for Hardly Art inevitably invites comparisons to Vivian Girls, Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls, as if all lo-fi, California-indebted, female-fronted groups are the same. Sure, ‘Sock it to Me’ bears the same punk influences that shine through in all those bands, but Green uses the language of New Wave, post-punk and even twee to inform her compositions — which also reveal an excellent ear for hooks.
Unfortunately, the albums raises many questions. Why does Green write lyrics that seem to say so little? Why does she insist that her guitar sounds like it’s coming from a practice amp with the distortion knob turned to 10? Why are there so many directions explored on one album, but all so shallowly?
Green is undoubtedly talented, and her ability to write original, deceptively simple melodies can’t be discounted. Likewise, she uses her long history of recording with limited resources as an asset rather than a liability, opting for production that’s impressively non-polished. It might have been tempting to go the opposite route, considering the higher profile of this LP.
Both her melodic sense and production skills come into play on the the album’s highlight, ‘Time in the World,’ as Green’s love of the Tom Tom Club combines effortlessly with her fuzzed-out signature aesthetic, resulting in a special song that truly stands out — to the extent that it becomes a distraction. You hope she’ll explore a similar direction further on the album, but sadly, she doesn’t.
Instead, Green devotes a portion of ‘Sock it to Me’ to paying tribute to Young Marble Giants and Missing Persons, and on a compositional level, her songs are too close to the source material to be enjoyed as anything more than strong homages. She presents ‘Close to You,’ ‘Every Boy Wants Every Girl’ and the title track with the belief that her sonic tics are enough to differentiate them from their influences, but more than anything, they give you the urge to dig out your copy of ‘Colossal Youth,’ the Marble Giants’ lone full-length.
Worse is the decision to lead the album with ‘Does He Tell Me,’ a showcase for shallow lyrics centered on how Green “really loves her boyfriend.” On an album where words function best when they don’t demand attention, these particular lyrics are nearly infuriating, and Green’s use of the most cringe-worthy lines as the album’s first impression is a fatal flaw.
Later, Green’s dearth of things to say already cemented, we hear more about her boyfriend and his eyes and eyelashes on ‘Darkest Eyes.’ Crafting an identity strong enough to carry a solo project like this requires more than wearing sunglasses all the time and loving weed, and it requires a lot more than the lyrical flat tire of ‘Taxi Driver’ and the Overheard in the Hallway-style bridge of ‘Every Boy Wants a Normal Girl.’
When your songs rely on the personalities of your influences, having so little to contribute lyrically makes the whole project seem pointless, to the extent that next time Green asks listeners to “sock it to her,” the likely response will be “why?”