Mar 13

Lene Lovich: “New Toy”

Lene Lovich -- New Toy

And if it’s not too much to ask for, Santa, a new album cover too? No? Well, okay, just the toy then.

Lene Lovich was one of New Wave’s true oddballs, but a pioneering one at that. She appeared right on the cusp between punk leading into New Wave, and in effect helped to define what that genre would be heading into the ’80s. Her urgent, synth-based music and hiccup-y vocals proved to be very influential on bands to follow. Her theatrical presence was part of her charm as well — on the one hand, she gave the appearance of taking herself quite seriously, but on the other hand you got the idea that she was of course fully aware of the inherent humor in her style.

“New Toy,” which was released on the 1981 EP of the same name, was one of Lovich’s two biggest hits in America (the other being the equally excellent “Lucky Number,” from her debut album), and it marked the first time that Thomas Dolby (of “She Blinded Me with Science” fame) appeared on the charts — he wrote the song for her after she took him on board as part of her band. In fact, if you listen to the backing vocals and some of the effects, you can hear the early signs of what was to become Dolby’s style quite clearly. But as much as Dolby’s lyrics of ever-shortening attention spans, the song’s success comes primarily via Lovich and her commanding vocal presence. She gave the song the attitude it needed to make it fully work.

I’m sick of the TV,
Well look at the news.
I’m sick of the radio,
But what can you do?
I’m sick of the Hoover,
But what is the cure?
I’m sick of it all, so what can I do?

If only Dolby and Lovich could have known how apt those lyrics would still be 30 years down the road, with the public’s ever-shortening attention spans. Although had it been written in this era, it might well have been titled, “New App.”

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