Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Gotta Grab Track: Clean
So the story goes that Pete Yorn had finally fallen asleep after a vicious bout of insomnia, and while drifting off to the sounds of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, he decided he wanted to do a duet record in the same vein. Hmm…so, if you’re an indie pop dude with good hair, the appropriate amount of French-inspired facial fuzz, and a ‘definitely-take-me-seriously’ vibe, whoya gonna get to play the Bardot to your Gainsbourg?
Well, of course, Scarlett Johansson. She certainly’s got the look down, with batty doe eyes and a mouth Ginger Lynn would’ve envied in her prime. Plus, Scarlett’s a genuinely talented actress. So, of course she can sing – right?
Well, yes and no. If you’ve been waiting for a whisper-twang version of Tom Waite, then Johansson’s your gal. Yorn doesn’t help much either because, well, it’s a typical Pete Yorn album…full of somber moments of contemplative beige to match the shag carpet by your low-fi stereo. Of course, because this album comes out right at the same time Deschanel and Ward release She & Him, comparisons are going to be made. And they should, because they’re both mediocre.
The problem for me is that Yorn and Johansson frame this record as a conversation between a passionate couple on the verge of breaking up, with the songs serving as back-n-forth table tennis of “oh whoa, what to do?” There’s no heat, no sex, no passion between their voices. They just seems to be, well, too sweet and laissez fare to be taken seriously. This isn’t a bad record. It’s pleasant, it’s innocuous, and for those of us who’ve heard the Bardot/Gainsbourg sound…it’s like comparing an original creme bruleé to cotton candy. They’re not even in the same league, at least in terms of sexual tension.
I personally don’t care for the country twang incarnations evoked by Johansson on tracks such as “Relator,” “I am the Cosmos,” and “Wear and Tear.” It just feels phony as hell. However, “Clean” is a decent, typically lo-fi track, as is “Shampoo.” Those two especially evoke the Pete Yorn vibe so many Generation Y ers tend to swoon for, so it won’t disappoint. I guessed I’m just a little bit shocked because Scarlett Johansson is one of the most naturally sexy girls I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how Yorn did it, but he managed to neuter what makes Johansson, well, a sultry creature of the Gods on par with Bridget Bardot. That’s quite a parlor trick. Perhaps he simply bored her to death with his strummy-strum guitar arrangement and occasional pluckety pluck honky tonk twinges.