Upset // She’s Gone
Don Giovanni Records
Recommended Track: Phone Calls
OK, so, let’s take a moment to talk about shitty albums. There are many kinds of shitty albums out there, and some are shittier than others. In my opinion, most shitty albums tend to fall into one of the following three categories, listed here in descending order of shittiness:
1. The interestingly shitty album: really ambitious, maybe ahead-of-its-time; a total failure, but in a heroic sort of way. You’ll listen all the way through, scratch your chin, respect the effort, and then probably never feel the need put it on again. Example: Billy Idol/Cyberpunk or Neil Young/Trans.
2. The inevitably shitty album: well-executed by talented musicians, this record is still doomed to fail because the thing the artist is trying to accomplish just kind of inherently sucks. Many examples, but let’s go with Flaming Lips/Zaireeka.
3. The pointlessly shitty album: the worst of the bunch, this album is the product of experienced musicians convening on a recording studio in order to phone it in completely. Nobody was asking for this record to be made; the world had zero need for it; yet here it is. Totally generic, this record is often a third-rate knockoff of the artist’s own earlier, better work. Example: latter-day Willie Nelson recordings. (Nothing against the man, but there’s a reason why he’s still playing “On The Road Again” at every live show.)
This new record by all-female supergroup Upset falls, hard, into the third category. I guess it’s going for a “throwback” pop-punk vibe, although in practice that translates to watered-down faux-“spunk” in an early-oughts mode which outdoes exactly nobody’s efforts dating from the actual period in question, while adding nothing new to the mix from the intervening ten years. Also, there’s a confusing “teen girl power, except we’re all grown-ass women and one of us is in her forties” thing going on. As I listened to this LP, I kept flashing back to that ca. 2000 Nickelodeon movie Snow Day. Not that I remember it well, but I’m pretty confident that if you substituted any track off She’s Gone for a song in the Snow Day soundtrack, it would change nothing except that it would be slightly worse.
Reviewing a category-3 shitty record is tough, because it all blends together in a horrible beige mass of mediocrity (note: possibly a self-defense mechanism, in that it’s therefore difficult to isolate any one detail to point to and say “There, that’s why it sucks so much”?). The short version would be: it sounds like a middle-aged person’s idea of teen angst, performed with all the passion of a green-card marriage. There’s just no real content here. “You think you know so much about me/No thank you”: this is nonsense if you think about it for more than ~3 seconds, yes, but that doesn’t stop them from repeating those two lines for like 2 minutes over three unchanging chords and then calling it a song.
I dunno, man. She’s Gone is basically just a big bummer, because you’re really rooting for these three musicians to crush it together. They definitely have the capacity, musically speaking, and that makes it even worse: it’s hard get yourself to listen to somebody talented failing to give a shit for half an hour. If you want, have a listen to “Phone Calls,” which, even if it sounds unsettlingly “alternative,” is at least a little bit more adventurous and possibly has some redeeming value: at some stage in the writing and recording process, somebody may actually have exerted effort to make it good. The rest of this ostensibly upbeat/fun LP is pretty much just a ticket to depression and disillusionment.