1996: Intersound 9175

  1. Limboland
  2. Baby Ooo
  3. The “In” Crowd
  4. Brave Old World
  5. Houdini
  6. Windy
  7. Freaky
  8. A Typical Love
  9. Flick That Thing
  10. Impossibly Blue
  11. Heaven
  12. Two Cherries
  13. Metro
  14. Limboland [Pop Remix]

This is a tough one. There’s such a jumble of quality levels here in terms of production, performance, and songcraft, that it’s impossible for me to say I like it or dislike it overall. Because it’s BETTY, and because I’m an enthusiast at heart, I’m inclined to give it a thumbs-up…but with provisos aplenty…rather than to convey the impression that it’s a mediocre album with a lot going for it.

The biggest problem with this album, other than harmonic imprecision (Amy Ziff’s chord-topping soprano leans ever-so-slightly to the sharp side sometimes, to the flat side at others, and Alyson Palmer’s alto tends to drift ever-so-slightly flat, resulting in chords that are slightly wider than they should be), is that it drags. It’s just a little too slow, on every track. BETTY eventually have rectified this slowness and honed their sound with a beefier and tighter band, but the outlook from Limboland wasn’t good. The over-production and reliance on electronica also coats many of these tracks with a syrupy sameness—echo effects, synths, programmed drums, and passionlessly consistent pacing homogenize things to the point where these songs simply aren’t distinct from each other.

That many of the songs’s lyrics and melodies aren’t particularly memorable or notable contributes to the feeling of sameness that pervades. Again, however, there are plenty of exceptions: “Metro” is a sneaky little devil and gets under your skin enjoyably before you notice it, “Houdini” would be perfect if it weren’t for the aforementioned harmony problem (and if it were just a hair faster), “Heaven” is a lovely song when it’s taken alone, and “Impossibly Blue” is probably the best piece of songwriting on the album and gets a quite moving treatment (with the usual caveats). “Two Cherries” seems like it’s trying to be two different things and can’t quite commit to either, which is frustrating because it has a loveliness about it which remains unrealized.

As for the two cover versions, “Windy” is pretty good—a fine arrangement and only the tempo/pitch issues flawing it, but “The In Crowd” really suffers from the latter, to the point where I can’t hear if the arrangement’s particularly good.