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Low Cut Connie: Private Lives

Driven primarily by pianist/songwriter Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie has spent the last decade turning from an almost-novelty act into one of rock’s most provocative voices. Even as debut album Get out the Lotion had a couple instantly classic tracks on it, the band’s aesthetic, showmanship and ribaldry obscured Weiner’s intelligence and artfulness. Exemplified by “Boozophilia,” the group’s connection with those on the margins became a signature trait as Weiner continued to ply old-time rock ‘n’ roll, as if building a one-man Sun Records revival. As the band gained professional momentum (helped by endorsements from public figures like Elton John and Barack Obama), they put their energy into an ever-expanding sound. The movement culminates in new double album Private Lives, their most fully realized record, complete with a guiding conceit and a bohemian poet’s eye without sacrificing too much wildness.

Weiner has long reveled in his flamboyance on stage, noting Bowie and Prince as inspirations even if Lou Reed makes a more apt songwriting predecessor. There’s more than a hint of Jerry Lee Lewis in his fingertips at the piano, but his recording career has been one of synthesizing rock ‘n’ roll tradition while sharpening his pen. Private Lives inhabits the alley denizens that “Boozophilia” celebrated. Weiner takes stock here, needing two discs to cover both the performativity and secret interiority of his secret people. He also makes himself vulnerable, acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between artist and fan, seller and buyer, and any set of fringe individuals.

It sounds cheesy, but these people, they’re the reason I’m alive/ The town freaks and the sleazies bring a tear to my eye,” Weiner sings on opening mid-tempo rocker “Private Lives.” That term “sleaze” has hung around Low Cut Connie’s music with good reason, but this album pushes it aside to take more concrete looks at these lives, moving from the outside in and back again. Weiner’s characters remain easy to find buying drugs or looking for a couch to crash on, but he finds humanity here that neither glamorizes and unasked-for struggle nor lets it simply be salacious “sleaze.”

To pull off the scope of the album, Low Cut Connie mixes rockers and ballads, frequently stopping for Weiner to sit down alone at his piano. “Run to Me Darlin’” tantalizingly offers only one verse and a chorus, but it suggests an entire history out of reach, the details better left unsaid since all the relevant characters somehow made it through. Or at least they’ve made it this far. The ’80s-like cut “Wild Ride” suggests conflicting desires to escape and to push deeper into the mess. “Nobody Else Will Believe You” recalls early Low Cut Connie in its boogie and in its suggestion that “you gotta boogie for yourself.” The more Weiner looks at those struggling around him, the more he continues to recognize the need to simply have a good time.

That party intertwines with more solemn thoughts. “Help Me” finds Weiner asking for support so that he can be good. “Baby, help me to be a good man,” he sings, trying to work his way into a healthy conscience. Private Lives has many ideas to reconcile, but they all orbit the need to survive life’s preposterous batterings. That survival comes in better and worse modes, but Weiner pursues a common thread of humanity in his writing. His comfort standing on instruments and running through crowds once overshadowed this element in his music, but he brings to light now as he peers into the dark, making for the most considered art of his career, even as the excitement continues to pulse through it all.

Weiner’s comfort standing on instruments and running through crowds once overshadowed the humanity in his music, but he brings to light now as he peers into the dark, making for the most considered art of his career.
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