Originally published in Bitch magazine, Spring 2005
Solex is the alter ego of Dutch record store owner, Elizabeth Esselink, who pieces together loops and samples from the crappy, unsellable CDs in her store’s discount bins, to layer under her own clever, nearly English-proficient vocals. After three brilliant solo albums for Matador, Solex has gained a new label, a live band and a male vocalist. These additional musicians appear on every track on Laughing Stock, but not in the way one might expect. They comprise just one of the many fragments of source material Esselink cuts and pastes to make songs. The musicians’ presence gives the album a messier and livelier sound than its predecessors. The album is full of fluxing sounds — slide guitar, muted trombones, kettle drums, portamento keyboards — the pitch sloshing up and down. “Yadda Yadda Yadda No. 1” overlays a truncated “Lowrider” bassline, with spanked guitar, gurgling antique synths and cowbells. “Fold Your Hands Child You Walk Like an Egyptian” overdubs buzzing flies on a clattering staccato march. On “The Boxer” Esselink sings in an impertinent school girl voice while left hooks and right jabs pan back and forth across the stereo. With headphones, the fight between the right and the left channels literally boxes your ears. The album’s final track is more organic than any of Solex’s previous recordings. Shifting from Mazzy Star sleep-a-delic country into foot-stomping southern rock, “You’ve Got Me” is achingly pretty. After singing backup for most of the album, Stuart Brown, with a voice that sounds like Leonard Cohen and Barry White tongue kissing, takes the lead for this anomalous track while Solex sings reverbed Motown backup. Over the course of this seven-minute rock epic, Brown’s lyrics start to sound awfully familiar — “Nobody told you how to unfold your love/You were inverted, too/They bought and sold you” — and the album’s practical joke becomes apparent. Esselink has never actually met Stuart Brown. She claims he is a mind-bendingly sexy, 6-foot tall Australian, who mailed her a recording of his a cappella rendition of the entire white album, which she has spliced up making it sound as though the two are intoning duets to each other. Through out the album it is apparent that Solex takes immense delight in making music and the feeling is infectious, making for catchy hooks that will carve a canyon through your brain as they repeat themselves. Is there any greater pleasure than pop music rendered fresh by the hands of an eccentric? When the bubble gum has lost its flavor Solex wraps it in mint leaves.