As countless artists have proved, branching out from your main band to dabble into a solo career can be a risky business. Michael Jackson nailed it, Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding arguably less so – but evaluating the success of Jenny Lee Lindberg in doing something her own is more difficult to decide. The LA-based musician’s name may not be immediately familiar, but her body of work should be – she’s been a member of psychedelic-rock band Warpaint since they formed way back in 2004. Releasing under the moniker Jennylee, her album Right On! is her first solo project – proving herself as more than just a Warpaint bassist, but sounding perhaps a little too close to what has been done before.
Right On! is a real late-night album – each song drips with mood, the distant echoes of Lindberg’s vocals offset by atmospheric bass. The record has the same post-punk tonality to it that Joy Division first experimented with; it’s mysterious and shadowy. Indeed, there are several songs on Right On! that really get it, ahem, right on. The album’s main single, Never, with its rippling bass melodies and bounding drumbeats (played by Lindberg’s Warpaint bandmate Stella Mozgawa) is the stand-out track, but Bully and Offerings are strong too. The trouble is the other tracks on the album: they seem to exist more to provide an overall mood than as separate entities, becoming disappointingly forgettable and indistinguishable from one to the next.
The difficulty with this album mainly stems from the fact that Lindberg seems torn between replicating more of what she has done before and deviating into more unfamiliar territory. Half of Right On! evokes the faraway cool of past Warpaint records, whilst the other opts for more punch. White Devil is riddled with such angst that Lindberg ends up manically exclaiming the song title over and over; it’s probably trying to push up against the limits of the gothic rock genre, but ends up just being a bit jarring. And if it’s trying to be angsty, the tone is completely cancelled out by the next track, the album’s closing number – Real Life is a good track in its own right, but Lindberg’s voice is eerily calmer here.
The songs on Right On! that are good are really good – but there are few enough of them that you can’t help but wonder if they’d be better off in the next Warpaint album. It’s in this that Lindberg falls victim to the classic solo side-project dilemma – it’s near impossible to do your own work without it being measured to what you’ve done before, and Right On! doesn’t quite feel separate enough from what Warpaint has done before to see it as its own being. Jennylee has proven herself an invaluable member of Warpaint, but the comparisons between this work and the band’s albums are, sadly, not quite working in her favour.