Luscious Jackson: Magic Hour

You know that band Betty? The group that did that "living, laughing, fucking, breathing" theme song over The L Word's opening credits? If we're really being honest with ourselves, Luscious Jackson has always been a (mostly) cooler version of that band. The speak-singing? The anthemic lyrics? The overly groovy bass lines that feel like they're from a 1970s cereal commercial? The "ladies rule" spirit of the whole project?

LJ was always a minor treasure of the 1990s alt-boom. Natural Ingredients and Fever In Fever Out hold up as lovely, sunny dance-party records, as does their scratchy, vaguely gloomy debut EP, In Search of Manny ("She Be Wantin' It More" in particular stands the test of time). On Magic Hour Luscious Jackson is sounding, if anything, more Betty-ish than ever. Which is fine, but also sort of embarrassing. I could cite 10 different feminist reasons why Jill Cunniff and Gabrielle Glaser harmonizing to the lyrics "The jeans fit nice/ Watch the price" on "#1 Bum" is both refreshing and necessary when placed in the larger context of the alt-music world. But that doesn't change the fact that this is now middle-class "cool mom" music about shopping for clothes at the mall (albeit thriftily).

Several songs are better at capturing the old LJ spirit. "Are You Ready?" and "Show Us What You Got" hit on exactly what makes the band wonderful: just some feel-good jams made by a few neighborhood girls from around the way; no pretension, just dancing.