If You’re Having Fun, We’re Having Fun, Too
People seemed surprised that Rilo Kiley lead singer Jenny Lewis would strike out on her own, but they were probably even more surprised to see how amazing Rabbit Fur Coat (2006) and Acid Tongue (2008) turned out. She’ll continue to shock the naysayers with her new Jenny and Johnny project and their debut I’m Having Fun Now, but what’s nerve-wracking is that Jonathan Rice (“Johnny”), her boyfriend and now full-time collaborator, seems poised for heartbreak.
This is clearly music made by newly paired lovebirds. The album’s first two songs, “Scissor Runner” and “My Pet Snakes,” feature evenly divided vocals (boy, girl, boy, etc.). And as you might expect from Silverlake hipsters, there’s an element of beachy fun that’s blended beautifully with roots rock. It’s almost a shame that I’m Having Fun Now draws comparisons to She & Him, as Rice is an easier partner to pull up to Lewis’ level than Zooey Deschanel is to M. Ward’s. Yet, as in her other outfits, Lewis is the most magnetic musician here. Her voice is like honey, her ability to articulate a lyric in just the right way is uncanny. Not only can she belt out a chorus perfectly, she harmonizes for her boyfriend so sweetly it’s striking.
“Animal” is probably the weakest song here, a white man’s meditation on religion (“If you lose your fear of God, you are an animal at heart”) that’s merely poetry workshop fodder. However, “Switchblade,” “Big Wave,” and “Straight Edge of the Blade” are delicious Lewis-led dreamy pop romps, the kind we miss from her solo albums and old-school Rilo Kiley. They’re more fun, more compelling, more alluring, and her lyrics are almost always sillier and lighthearted (“It’s a real shame that you don’t drive / Since you don’t drink you should be driving me around”).
Lewis may be trying to sell the general public on her boyfriend’s talent, but nobody’s really buying it. However, they are buying the record because she’s on it, and it’s a total dream. It’s not as if she’s never made questionable music (Under the Blacklight), but what happens when I’m Having Fun Now helps her break a man’s heart? It’s like a tattoo you might regret in 20 years, but for the time being let’s show off this pretty little piece of folk-pop.