CD Review of 1-800-BANKRUPT by Marykate O’Neil

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starstarno starno starno star Label: Nettwerk
Released: 2006
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For anyone who ever wondered what it would sound like if Lisa Loeb, Susanna Hoffs, and Mary Lou Lord somehow had a daughter together, Marykate O’Neil’s 1-800-BANKRUPT is the answer. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends mainly on the listener’s tolerance for sweet, unflinchingly earnest pop – particularly the kind that’s put across with the sort of boho twentysomething delivery that sounded disarmingly fresh during Loeb’s heyday.

The operative word being sounded. In the pop milieu, it’s awfully unfair to criticize an artist’s lyrical worldview for being unoriginal, but there it is; O’Neil’s aura of cockeyed sadness may or may not be a calculated thing, but often as not, it comes across that way.

Her heart certainly seems to be in the right place – if you’re going to cop a vibe, you could certainly do worse than Byrdsy, lo-fi jangle pop. And though her resemblance to the Loeb, Hoffs, and/or Lou Lord at various points throughout the album is at times aggravatingly transparent, it’s also intermittently endearing.

The end result is a record that isn’t bad. It’s just one we’ve heard before – in the efforts of all the aforementioned artists, not to mention Jill Sobule (who produces and co-writes here, as she did on O’Neil’s debut), Juliana Hatfield, Jennifer Trynin, or any one of a hundred others. Chances are, you have some of those records in your collection already.

~Jeff Giles