Jenny Lewis, 'Acid Tongue' (Warner Bros.)

5
Acid Tongue
Critical Mass
Label: Warner Bros.

by Stacey Anderson

In the 1989 film Troop Beverly Hills, a gaggle of preteen Girl Scouts clomped around Rodeo Drive waving cookies and Chanel, alarming their poorer/homelier peers with ditzy elitism and lacquered soul bonding. The flock's mantra, screamed into eternity, was: "We're the troop from Beverly Hills! Shopping is our greatest skill!"

Jenny Lewis, that movie's child star, has matured into a skillful singer/songwriter -- though she's still an L.A. woman who loves excess. Her second alt-country solo album springs less from the cavernous echoes and elegiac acoustic gospel of her first (2006's Rabbit Fur Coat) and more from the increasingly produced arc of Rilo Kiley, who moved from torchy, pensive rock into the saucier new-wave carnality of last year's major-label debut, Under the Blacklight.

Similarly, Acid Tongue is glossed up at the expense of Lewis' charming flaws. It dismisses her scrappy Dusty in Memphis crooning and piles on jamboree piano and drums, vague down-home lyrics, and neatly tied-up ends. Her winsome alto is polished but less adventurous, and the ballads lack urgency, though "Pretty Bird" is sultry fun. Guest Elvis Costello storms through "Carpetbaggers" with throat-scraping enthusiasm (which she unfortunately doesn't match).

Lewis excels in moments of sincere repose, even if she's less invested in them nowadays. Her version of country has always had a Hollywood tinge, but now it's overshadowing her indie underdog soul.

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