Luscious Jackson: Electric Honey

by Eric Layton
February 1999

Electric Honey is Luscious Jackson’s fourth outing, and it contains their most confident and unself-conscious work to date. In terms of creative evolution, it is indeed the next logical step the band could have taken after 1997’s euphoria-inducing Fever In Fever Out. Jill Cunniff, Gabby Glaser and Kate Schellenbach (minus key-boardist Vivian Trimble, who’s left the band), craft a complex sonic bouillabaisse on Electric Honey, which offers a synthesized, jazzy and funky eclecticism that’s not only sexy but has pop smarts.

The most distinctive aspect of this New York City group has always been their balmy yet attitude-laced vocal harmonies and Cunniff’s spunky lead purr. Lay their singing over tasty synthesizer and keyboard sounds, the always-eventful guitar work of Glaser and Cunniff and the super-solid drumming of Kate Schellenbach, and you end up with a delectable (luscious?) aural feast.

Electric Honey kicks off with the commanding “Nervous Breakthrough,” which reminds the listener that LJ’s silky-smooth vocalizing is indeed their best asset. It’s followed up by the stirring “Ladyfingers,” which features back-up vocals from none other than Emmylou Harris. (The legendary help doesn’t stop there – Deborah Harry takes the mike on “Fantastic Fabulous,” an edgy, mercurial rave-up.)

Their singing notwithstanding, establishing a groove has always been LJ’s prime directive, and they do it to head-bobbing effect here. The ladies set some addictive circular rhythms in motion on “Christine,” then conjure up the aptly titled “Sexy Hypnotist.” And the smashing “Space Diva” may be one of their best moments to date, especially since it offers a sly dis to the Mariahs and Celines of the world with the willfully oblique yet stinging chorus “All the divas are doin’ it.”

In a move that will catch many LJ fans off guard, the ladies prove there’s a little bit of Nashville in them on the straightforward, harmonica- accented “Country A Callin’.” Soon after, another punch is pulled on the hallucinogenic, Doors-ish “Fly,” which is seared by a shivering, spaghetti western-ish guitar and filled with Glaser’s spoken/sung musings. And “Lover’s Moon,” the album’s coda, finds Luscious Jackson embracing folk more than ever before. What this stylistic exploration means for the future of the band remains to be seen, but for right now, Electric Honey certainly lives up to its title.

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