Forever Or Whatever (Personal Best/MGM)
Hardly an ingenue, while definitely not an old stager – her teenage breakthrough band, Bridezilla, popped up a decade ago - innocence is not Holiday Sidewinder’s playing field.
If you’ve ever seen her on stage or her filmclips you’ll know her preferred ground for this album, which sits somewhere between a compilation of singles and a set of linked songs, is somewhere between a wink and a nod, between raunch and playful, between provocative and guileless.
It’s a tricky line to walk because the whole point of the provocation is that it comes from an unlikely place, or is a surprise. It’s not half as much fun if we aren’t twisted a bit, stunned a bit more. She said what? She did that?? She wore this???
That’s hardly a new thing of course, from Britney Spears on down (or up). Ask Serge Gainsbourg. Or more pointedly maybe ask France Gall who (unknowingly at the time, as a somewhat naïve 18-year-old) sang some of Gainsbourg’s more provocative double entendres in the 1966 huge hit, Les Sucettes.
Note though that Sidewinder is firmly in control of her songs and her message. She just wants you to hear her in a more ambiguous setting so that the image or the pointed line smacks harder for some. And she wants the rest us in the know so that the laugh springs as well as the hook.
Like Alex Cameron and Kirin J Callinan, she’s playing us and inviting us to play along.
Consequently, throughout Forever Or Whatever, Sidewinder sounds sweet, almost girlish as she lightly lands on each track: a dreamy airiness in Whispers and Leo; flighty and the slightest bit indifferent in the disco-ish Casino; slight distancing in the ‘80s pop funk of Seventeen; wanly wistful through Tra$h Can Luv as its rolling synth pop rhythm calls for Rick Astley.
Even in the title track, which closes the album with more hard swings than any of the preceding seven songs, the retro beatbox sounds and mix of tinkling and machine keyboards are accompanied by Sidewinder more affectless than aggressive.
Most of this work though would be for nought if the underlying intent was cynicism. And whatever else you might think of her – and while I loved the OTT homo-eroticism of the filmclip for Leo, I can’t forgive her yet for reviving Kokomo, the worst song The Beach Boys ever committed to tape, as a non-album single - Sidewinder doesn’t wear the cloak of the cynic.
She just feels like she’s having too much fun to be so limited, throwing Moroder shapes in Casino and remaking golden age Kylie in Leo, building a cross between Gloria Estefan and Clairy Browne in the swinging R&B of Holiday Inn and giving the deadpan electro of Baby Oil a lubricious coating to match its snaking guitar line.
Having fun of course is its own provocation: it can make people very suspicious. Holiday Sidewinder, lover of knowing innocence, would know this very well.