We’ve seen this before: A talented musician toils in obscurity for lo these many years, until suddenly, almost accidentally, she trips over her formula for success. But in just that moment, when all the dreams are coming true, scandal erupts—and our musician needs to mature, fast, before her 15 minutes are up.
Yes, Valerie Sassyfrass was singled out on “Ellen” for doing her butt dance at a children’s parade. But even though this may not be “A Star is Born,” matured Sassy has: her second album is cohesive, coherent, and more importantly, as fun as the first one. These ten songs are not performance art, not stage directions, not novelties. You don’t have to enjoy her ironically anymore.
Loosely centered on a space theme, Sassyfrass takes her sex-positive Grandma cabaret bit to the stars as a goodwill ambassador of sorts, doing gigs on Mars, dating in the Sea of Tranquility (dinner was solar flares and Halley’s Comet wine, if you must know), stopping off at Roswell, hanging out with a T. Rex for some reason and ending up as a cocktail waitress. As you do. Yes, anyone can write a song called “Women Are From Venus, Men Are From Mars,” but would you stick a cha-cha-cha in between the two phrases? You would not.
Half the songs echo the retro-futuristic sound of early ’80s synth-pop (A Flock of Seagulls, ELO’s classic album Time) mixed in with arcade noises. (This makes Sassyfras’s deadpan raps sound like Laurie Anderson, I shit you not). The rest of her tunes here are sort of cosmic country, which makes sense if you know she cut her teeth on C&W as part of a duo with her late husband. There’s even a bygod instrumental that works with the rest of the album, and a streamlined version of “Space Oddity” that doesn’t lose any of the originals’ majesty. Buy this record now if you can’t make it to one of Sassyfrass’s over-the-top live shows, and help support the city’s stranger side.