Natural Ingredients Reivew by Marie Elsie St. Leger
Rolling Stone September 22, 1994
***1/2 out of *****
“Natural Ingredients,” Luscious Jackson’s first full-length album starts out with “Citysong,” a homage to the twisted logic of life in New York. The beat, in your face and just a little uneven, backs lyrics rap-sung by Jill Cunniff and Gabrielle Glaser: “When I’m about to go crazy/’Cause I’m still living here/I just get my friends together/And we dance, dance, dance.”
In immediate contrast to “Citysong” is “Deep Shag,” a deceptively quiet song with keyboards that weave a sweet ring around the softly menacing lines “I feel small when I am next to you/I feel big when I forget you.” The band, a fixture on the downtown music scene of its native New York, regularly finds inspiration in that romance-starved, irony-drenched world.
The quartet – vocalists Cunniff and Glaser (also bassist and guitarist, respectively), keyboardist Vivian Trimble and former Beasties drummer Kate Schellenbach – has followed up its attention grabbing 1993 EP In Search of Manny with an incisive album that owes as much to Marvin Gaye and Sly and the Family Stone as to Blondie and Malcolm McLaren. But Luscious sample few songs on this album; instead, they invert beats, subtly investing the tunes with sounds of the city and a rhythm that can only be called street-wise.
Natural Ingredients is no boy-rap album: Luscious give a punklike, riot-grrrl view of the loves and hates of everyday existence. ‘Strongman’ is a demand for respect and support (“it takes a strong man/To stand by a strong woman/Yes, it does”); “Energy Sucker” tosses a man aside when he fails to live up to his promise (“I’m stone free, soulless one/I wash myself down to the dust”); “Find Your Mind” follows the exploits of a girl on the run from herself (“And we know she can’t fix her soul/By filling up empty holes”). Every sentiment, every manifesto, every call to party is backed by a sinuous and sly vibe.
They may indeed by prot’g’s of the rude and crude Beastie Boys, but on Natural Ingredients Luscious Jackson stand strongly on their own. They call it like it is at every turn, whether on the dance floor or on the summer-scorched tar of polluted cities, with humor, righteous rock and poetic flair – and they let the grittiness of their lives speak for itself.
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