September 30, 2016

LP: Earth Girls - Wanderlust

Exploring the uncertainty of the human condition on Earth Girls' Wanderlust.

“Should I stay or should I go now?” a merry band of 20th century philosophers once queried. We’ve all faced this quandary in our personal lives where if we go there will be trouble, and if we stay, there will be trouble - double the trouble, in fact. Almost always, we know the right answer: it’s the one most liable to drain us of our will to get out of bed before the sun goes down. So, we let the issues fester until their breaking point. “I won’t let that happen again,” we swear. But then we do. Change is hard and enduring life’s cruelty alone requires infinite more effort than holding someone’s hand, even if their grip isn’t as tight. What the hell are we to do? These are the quagmires at the foundation of Earth Girls’ recent LP, Wanderlust.

You wouldn’t know the ground’s about to cave in by the way the band plays. Even the slower songs rip like a jackhammer through loose-leaf. Liz Panella’s airy voice finds the catchiest intonations in each lyric with ease. Like many classic pop songs, the music’s swift pleasures mask selfish people roaming around an unforgiving world, seeking an illusion of escape through the form of “you.” On the title track she sings, “I’ve realized what we see too often is all we’ll ever get,” and she’s right. Everyone wants more out of their lives, but our potential for growth caps at a level lower than we’d like. When we’ve exhausted ourselves, we search for the embrace of a guide who will lead us towards a less problematic version of our current incarnate. Of course, time reveals that, just we are who we are, they are who they are. Do we say, “I’ll take it,” or “Nah?” Is being with someone, anyone, better than being alone? The couples featured in these songs can’t make up their minds so they dawdle in unhealthy relationships. To a comic degree, nobody can commit to staying or going. The blazing and fist-clenchingly catchy, “Say Goodnight,” begins: “I walk away / Part of me wishes that you’d beg I’d stay.” On the pumping, jittery “Only Human,” a track that appeared on their 2014 EP Demo Tape, Panella confesses, “I didn’t think you’d stay. I must admit I want you all to myself.” Each party uses the other as both a crutch and punching bag when the world crushes them like a dog playing with a water bottle. In “Don’t Let Go,” she first accuses her partner of being too independent, then ends up begging the person to let her deal with shit on her own. Later, the wise “For Granted” finds the singer psyching herself up to overcome her anxiety. “But if I fall too far,” she warns, “Will you pick me up again?” And, you know what, this person probably would come to the rescue. To paraphrase Rilo Kiley’s “Portion for Foxes,” they’re like two walking corpses offering each other a form of relief. The fear of loneliness, and the sacrifice of all common sense love demands, drive people to illogical behavior.

Ultimately, Panella doubles down on a parasitic relationship in the closer, “Oland”: “I’m not the person I became with you / Full of doubt, never making up my mind / Nonetheless I still want you on my side.” Clearly, they’re both bad news and deserve one another. We can judge, but who among us hasn’t gone against our better judgement in the name of human affection? Luckily for the listener, the band’s motor offers a sturdy, if not a gentle touch too repetitive, structure for Panella to navigate the indecisions shaping the album’s narrative. At 12 songs and 20 minutes, the formula doesn’t wear out its welcome. There’s enough little twists, turns, subtle background vocals, and Panella’s warmth to brush off any wanderlust you may feel. Really, that’s all these people populating Wanderlust want: a formula for life that’s consistent, honest, and structurally sound enough to sustain repeat damage. Heck, don’t we all?


Listen to Earth Girls on bandcamp.

Alex Stern is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia, PA. He enjoys Hemingway Daiquiris, Frasier, and lox. You can follow him on Twitter @alyman007, but he won't be offended if you don't.