I’m an old fart now—I remember the late 1980s. I remember running across Lizzy Borden when they were featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic The Decline Of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years, prancing about in tassled coats and waving baseball bats. And truthfully, I thought they were silly as hell.
I was right… And I was wrong.
Because let’s be honest: Classic Lizzy Borden is pretty ridiculous, but it’s also ridiculously fun. “Me Against The World” is a strong sing-along anthem, but then there’s the video with Lizzy in that shiny suit, with silver lipstick and gigantic hair…
Lizzy Borden (the band) has always been effectively a solo project for Lizzy Borden (the man), but My Midnight Things is almost literally that, with Lizzy performing all guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals. Only drummer Joey Scott remains from the olden days — he’s the only band member to perform on all Lizzy’s albums, besides Lizzy himself, and he’s also Lizzy’s kid brother. Consequently, given the lack of an actual band, one thing My Midnight Things isn’t is musically flashy — it’s song-driven, and more than that, it’s vocal driven. The guitars are there to boost the voices, and solos are replaced by melodic musical hooks and interludes.
Opening the album in fitting fashion, the title track is layered with harmonies and backgrounds and counter-melodies (So. Many. Vocals.); it’s directly inspired by Queen, and living up to that band’s legendary penchant for overdubs in excess. Lizzy Borden has always embraced pomp, and this is that times ten, and it’s arguably one of his finest ever songs, simple and eminently catchy, with a huge vocal hook over Scott’s insistent pulse.
From there, My Midnight Things is rock solid through three-quarters of the album, through the rocking “Obsessed With You” to the moody “The Perfect Poison” and the supremely hooky “Run Away With Me,” before it derails itself on the home stretch. In those first seven songs lies one of the strongest albums of Borden’s career so far, melodic and dark and filled with gleeful bombast. But then comes “Our Love Is God,” a riffless, leaden nu-metal clunker that’s dead on arrival, and no amount of Lizzy’s melodic talent can salvage it. Following it with a stripped-down and slowed-down reprise of the title track is interesting, adding further flair to Lizzy’s signature musical-theater tendencies, but four minutes is too long to keep that second go-’round afloat, and then closing track “We Belong To The Shadows” isn’t strong enough to pull the disc out from its downward spiral. (The digipack edition has three bonus tracks to follow, and I’d certainly be interested in hearing them, but the promotional copy did not include them.)
Produced and written by Borden himself, all of My Midnight Things sports modern leanings, one that could likely prove a sticking point with long-time fans expecting a less post-millennium affair. Single “Long May They Haunt Us” splits the difference between Lizzy’s theatrics and the eyeliner-goth arena emo of Black Parade-era My Chemical Romance, and yet is stronger than that alliance would ever sound on paper. Still, at heart, My Midnight Things is classic Borden, slightly updated but very much rooted in the glitter rock and traditional metal that has long been his twin defining influences. It’s ridiculous, and it’s ridiculously fun, just like always.