I'm on my Cell Phone
Crunks Not Dead, 2007
Give it a listen: "Don't Gotta Pay for Love"
Queer femme rapper Nicky Click's second album, I'm on my Cell Phone, requires an audience that appreciates an esoteric aesthetic, that has a fondness for listening to challenging music that expands one's awareness of compositional possibility. Yet Click doesn't bring the creativity, technical skill, or authenticity necessary to satisfy that audience.
The album is, in a word, bizarre. And don't get me wrong, I love bizarre. I count the Dirty Projectors' minimalist rock opera, The Getty Address, as one of my favorite albums. I go to performance artist Khaela Maricich's Blow concerts any chance I get. And I so want to marry pop violinist Owen Pallett, who sings about genitalia over repeated violin loops, and have ten thousand of his babies.
But Click's music feels like a geeky Jan Brady to the ethereal Anna Oxygen's Marcia, in the same family because they both ignore the boundaries of traditionally marketable music to produce a bubbly and undeniably feminine sound, but we know that Click's the one who'll just never really get it, no matter how big a smile she wears. She also sounds much like Peaches without meaningful lyrics or snappy vocals, at times relying on beats that resemble their elementary style, minus the creativity.
Click's elementary beats and lyrics leave me with the same pity one has for someone desperately trying to be something that she's not. Marketed as "feminist", the lyrics don't present a noticeably feminist message outside of the tracks "Fuck Machine" and "Rhea", neither of whose meaning is discernible. She instead seems more interested in rapping about the adolescent relationship woes one would expect in a Justin Timberlake album, her contrived craziness, and various desserts.
The DIY/low budget aesthetic Click employs, popularized elsewhere because it's generally balanced with depth, innovation, and catchiness, is instead awkwardly juxtaposed with lyric and sonic superficiality and an overall sound that's cliché when it works, annoying when it doesn't. She seems to be trying to access a part of the psyche that wants everything to be a little simpler, but when, in "Ice Cream Girl", she asks "Who here likes ice cream?" and her father answers (yes, her father) "I do!" the plea is too heavy handed to take seriously.
The highlight of the album is the guest musicians, who generally outshine Click herself. Katastrophe's appearance and production of "It's Complicated" provides a delightful break from the general harshness of the rest of the album. Hornet Leg,
of Gossip fame, pumps some of his band's trademark sound into a funk rhythm and smooth vocals in "Get on the Floor and Dance". And, for all I could say about "Ice Cream Girl", the butch Cathy Cathodic's quick-witted rap verse, with more ice cream related lesbian sex references than I knew existed, adds another dimension to the album with the only recognizably queer lyrics.
As for her solo tracks, "Crazy Shit" stands out on the album because of its heavy crunk influence and because Click didn't stray too far from the genre's formula. "Utter Despair and Chocolate Eclairs" proves, over and over and over again, that the words "eclair" and "despair" rhyme, over an interesting beat that I'm glad I can say I've heard. The title track is a pop ditty with a quasi-catchy hook that's long enough and repeated enough times to make one forget what else happened in the song.
I'm on my Cell Phone is fun the first time through, but I wouldn't recommend listening to it any more than that.
Visit Nicky Click's webpage to learn more about her, find her tour dates, or order her album.
Correction: Hornet Leg isn't a member of the Gossip. It's a rock band from Portland, OR, another project Chris Sutton from the Dub Narcotic Sound System works on. I based what I wrote on the press release that accompanied the album, which reads "The album features Jenro, Katastrophe, Johnny Dangerous and Hornet Leg (of The Gossip)."
It's my fault; I should have Googled instead of trusting the materials provided.