Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Love Me Dead" / Ludo

The first couple of times I heard this song on the radio, I wasn't sure I liked it -- the lead singer's voice was whiny and neurotic, a little like John Linnell of They Might Be Giants crossed with Freddie from Freddie and the Dreamers. "I love you, you're awful," he's yelping to his girlfriend; "You're hideous, and sexy." Well, make up your mind! I wanted to tell him.

Then I saw the video, and realized that Ludo's front man/songwriter Andrew Volpe is completely digging the comedy. Dressed in a sort of PeeWee Herman gray suit, he's sitting anxiously on a sofa, emoting extravagantly as he sings. It's not exactly a novelty number, but it's tongue-in-cheek all right. And...well, what can I say? He wears glasses. I have a long history of falling for singers in glasses.

I've read a few disparaging reviews of Ludo's current album, You're Awful, I Love You, that claim that Volpe has sold out, gone commercial, lost his quirky indie integrity. But I don't know; I like several tracks from this album, even more than the earlier ones on iTunes. Since when was being accessible a bad thing? They're tuneful, rhythmic pop, smartly packaged. Maybe it's that Midwestern sense of humor I love (most of the band is from St. Louis), which sails right past some critics.

The lyrics are still subversively clever. From that very first alliterative line -- "Love me cancerously / Like a salt-sore soaked in the sea" -- you know you're dealing with a snarky sensibility. He throws plenty of nasty adjectives at his, um, love interest -- "gluttonous," "narcissistic," "parasite, psycho, filthy" -- but he delivers it in such a drama-queen manner, you just know he's hung up on her anyway. "Kill me romantically," he pleads, as if writhing in exquisite torment; "Fill my soul with vomit / Then ask me for a piece of gum. / Bitter and dumb / You're my sugarplum. / You're awful, I love you!" Even as he lambasts her, he's making an ironic spectacle of himself.

In the chorus, he almost sounds as if he's seguing into something a little more tender: "She moves through moonbeams slowly / She knows just how to hold me / And when her edges soften...," only to flip it around suddenly with a rhyme: "her body is my coffin." And off he goes on another paranoid tangent. This cracks me up.

The arrangement is funhouse loony, too, with jabbing minor-key organ chords, ominous backup harmonies, and a lockstep marching rhythm that just hints at delirium. You almost expect a wheezy ocarina and maniacal giggling -- more than a little Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is fun, folks, a goofy way to express the sick ambivalence of an unhealthy love affair, taking the "Cruel to Be Kind" concept down some dark side alley. I perk up when it comes on the radio now. At any rate, it makes a nice change from the endless round of Coldplay.

Love Me Dead sample

No comments: