LACUNA COIL SHALLOW, LIVELY ON ‘SHALLOW LIFE’
Lacuna Coil makes it easy for haters. For one thing, their latest (and best) album ostensibly explores the meaninglessness of modern life, yet Shallow Life itself is immediate, thoughtless pop. Luckily, it’s awesome pop, to be enjoyed in the same disposable way as Doritos and Indiana Jones: as good, pointless fun. And though it suffers for its lack of depth, most of the Shallow Life experience is awesome hookery bolstered by Don Gilmore’s micro-tuned (post-)production. Arrangements are mercilessly utilitarian, with very few intros or outros or reps. At first, the record’s swift economy of riffage kinda feels like abridgement, like Reader’s Digest’s Shallow Life. But it’s soon clear that the brevity is basically a mercy killing, cuz, if you recall, guitarists Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi played like vaginas on 2006’s otherwise awesome Karmacode. Those two either needed to get a style, or be banished to the background with (snicker) the keyboard player – and they are on Shallow Life. Out of convenience if not necessity, Gilmore’s Lacuna Coil is no longer a guitar band, but a pop band with heavy guitars, like Paramore, Garbage, and In Flames.
And like a pop record, Shallow Life is all singing. Not just a lot of singing at one time, but also in the sense that either there’s singing or silence for 48 minutes. Of the first six songs, four are taut Top 10 singles, and that doesn’t even count a fifth (“I Won’t Tell You”) that practically fellates radio programmers or the tune in which non-Cristina Scabbia singer Andrea Ferro seems to bellow “I’m not a faaaaag!” (“I’m Not Afraid”). Then there’s “The Pain,” a heavy ballad (and live must-play) with the gravity and bald histrionics of Sneaker Pimps simulating that first Evanescence single in half time.
Gilmore is most successful on Shallow Life in taming Ferro, whose embarrassingly passionate raving is more often confined to verses here. Ferro is given steady work, but light-lifting only, and he pulls it off notwithstanding his occasionally hilarious accent (“Sie-lint wheespersss” on “Spellbound”). When Ferro vacates completely, liberating infinite Scabbias to harmonize and overlap, it’s like exhilarating cinema. It could be that the male components of Lacuna Coil are Scabbia’s well-qualified backing band, and will likely be photographed in such a manner when they perform Shallow Life centerpiece “Wide Awake” at the next Grammys and possibly Oscars. The towering anthem finds Scabbia nodding to Kate Bush and Sinead O’Connor with a voice that now – in addition to a dozen other mosts – can also be called rock’s most emotive.
In a good way, Shallow Life is like Def Leppard’s Hysteria, Andrew WK’s I Get Wet, and that last Lost Prophets record produced by Bob Rock: simplified to the point of absurdity and limitlessly consumable. Not like a fulfilling meal, rather a fun snack. It rocks about as hard as Nickelback – maybe Disturbed – and therefore might still be ignored in a lobby or elevator. You feel like a total sucker as it pulls every string with predictable precision. You even find parallels in the track order, as Hysteria‘s anti-climatic album closers “Excitable” and “Love And Affection” are matched by the monotonous “Unchained” (according to my girlfriend, an admission of Scabbia’s desire to do porn) and “The Maze,” a tiresome dud. Elsewhere, “I Like It” is great but treads too closely for comfort to Alanis Morissette territory (Canada, right?) and “Spellbound” seems like it’d be a real headache for Scabbia in concert. It’s these songs that make Shallow Life a bit depressing, all desperately vague and pleading for approval. Otherwise, it’s beautiful garbage.
(4½ out of 5 horns)
Anso DF is a former music journalist who thinks you might have a learning disability, Sammy, on the daily Metal news column Hipsters Out Of Metal!