Bible camp boyfriends, sneaking out of the house, beautiful friendships, terrible friendships, closeted queerness – this is Lucy Dacus re-examining her adolescence and she’s not shying away from the sad bits.
'Home Video' is the 26-year-old American’s third solo album and it’s an emotional exploration of her youth. Her cutting lyrics combine the vividness of teenage experiences with Dacus’ adult reflections on them. "You called me cerebral and I didn’t know what you meant / But now I do, would it have killed you to call me pretty instead?" she sings in ‘Brando’, a bop about a bad friendship. Her language is often playfully subversive: the title of the brilliant opening track ‘Hot & Heavy’ is not just sexual innuendo but refers to the emotional impacts of revisiting memories; meanwhile the childishly innocent titles of ‘Cartwheel’ and ‘Triple Dog Dare’ contrast their melancholic lyrics and grown-up perspectives.
Dacus’s album sifts through memories corroborated by the journals she has kept since she was seven. Christianity is a recurring theme – "in the summer of ’07 I was sure I’d go to heaven" Dacus sings in the opening lines of ‘VBS’, an acronym for ‘vacation bible school’. In ‘Christine’ she sings of "a sermon saying how bent and evil we are". Although it was a large part of Dacus’ adolescence, she is not religious now. Sometimes things need to stay in the past, Dacus suggests in ‘Thumbs’, a heart-breaking song about meeting a friend’s estranged father.
Dacus’ talent for crafting emotionally devastating rock songs has been undeniable since she opened her 2018 album Historian with the incredible ‘Night Shift’, but there are also some surprises on the album. In ‘Partner in Crime’, a song about lying about her age to date an older man, Dacus uses autotune because she was recovering from a vocal injury at the time of recording. It works perfectly – the slight artificiality of her voice complements the song’s subject.
Other surprises include cameos from Dacus’ boygenius bandmates, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, as well as singer-songwriter Mitski. In addition to their backing vocals in ‘Please Stay’, her friends’ laughs and voices can be heard at the end of ‘Going Going Gone’, a delightful acoustic campfire-style song.
'Home Video' concludes with the intense ‘Please Stay’ followed by the anthemic eight-minute ‘Triple Dog Dare’ which is full of nostalgia, longing and innocence. It’s a powerful ending to a powerful album, confirming Home Video as another exquisite offering from Lucy Dacus.
Words: Rebecca Sibley
– – –
– – –