Lisa Loeb

Geffen Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Listening to Firecracker, the sophomore release from alt-rocker Lisa Loeb (and first not credited to her backing band Nine Stories), one has to imagine someone at Loeb's then-record label saying to themselves, "Y'know, the potential is there - we heard it on Tails - but maybe if we give a bigger budget and add some orchestration, we can push her to the top of the charts."

Well, it didn't quite work that way, though Firecracker did spawn Loeb's third hit (albeit a minor one) with "I Do" - and for the second time in a row, Geffen botched the promotion of this disc by ignoring a sure-fire hit. But Firecracker does prove two things: that Loeb is best when taken in small doses, and the added instrumentation does sometimes benefit the music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Let's first start out with the label-bashing. "I Do" is an excellent song, and it could have been a bigger hit for Loeb had a better campaign been put together to push this track. However, it seemed like Geffen was then willing to let this disc die. Granted, the label was about to undergo a reorganization - a kind word for "bloodletting" - but it's too bad someone didn't think to try and push the song "Let's Forget About It" to AOR radio. Talk about a lost opportunity - this would have been the second part of the "one-two punch" that could have really helped Loeb out.

I've listened to my wife's cassette of Firecracker a few times now before writing this, and two things jump out at me about this album. First, moving away from the minimalist style that made "Stay" a hit was risky, but it sounds more natural for Loeb, as if she's been waiting for the chance to show off her talents. (No disrespect meant towards the members of Nine Stories.) The second thing is a little weirder - no matter how many times I listen to this album, it comes off as being bland overall, and in turn somewhat forgettable.

How so? After all, didn't I just say that the richer instrumentation is a plus? Indeed, it is - but sometimes it just seems like things aren't clicking like they should for Loeb. Example: if you read the lyrics to "Jake," you could assume that someone pissed Loeb off something fierce. If only the music captured that same kind of fire. Other songs like "Truthfully," "Wishing Heart" and "Furious Rose" start off strong, but are unable to maintain the momentum.

Yet I question where the blame lies. I'm not totally convinced that it's Loeb's songwriting. If anything, Loeb might still feel trapped by the success of "Stay," and sometimes feels like she has to stay in that vein in some manner. When she cuts loose as she does on "Let's Forget About It," it sometimes feels like Loeb is starting to shed the albatross of sudden fame. These are the moments I found myself living for on Firecracker; too bad there weren't enough to really push this album into the next level.

Rating: C

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.