Lydia Lunch - In Limbo

Lydia Lunch
In Limbo

Released 1984 on Doublevision
Reviewed by Lawrence, 05/11/2010ce

What could I say about Lydia Lunch that hasn't already been said? At a very young age Lunch carved herself a niche in the underground New York music scene, and ever since has done so many diverse, ambitious projects in her lifetime. Certainly not bad for someone who has overcome an abusive childhood.

I was aware of Lunch during my high-school years, reading about many of her exploits in the local paper (as she came from my town of Rochester, New York.) Much of her music would get airplay on college radio, especially "Snakepit Breakdown" which nearly gave me nightmares. In Limbo was the first record of hers I ever picked up, with a killer lineup of Thurston Moore, Jim Sclavunos and Richard Edson (all Sonic Youth alumni) plus longtime collaborator Kristian Hoffman and also Pat Place from classic avant-funk group the Bush Tetras. The tracks were recorded in 1982 but weren't issued until two years later when Cabaret Voltare's Doublevision label picked it up.

The cover doesn't give you a clue that this is probably one of Lunch's most depressive works -- she is seen laying on a massage table in what looks like an iconic pose, with a somewhat seductive smile on her face. The first track "I Wish... I Wish-", however, starts rather dourly with Hoffman's sparse piano and Place's lackadaisical Eastern-tinged guitar and Sclavuno's stray sax. The lyrics set the stage for much of the album, the theme apparently about self-loathing and guilt for the most part. And it pretty much carries on until the second side and "Some Boys", which picks up in tempo with some powerful drum work by Edson. While the lyrics start getting quite bitter: "O mygod awful ugly, and I could end up getting shit-kicked, Jesus gets arrested and married to an infidel, I've had enough for one girl, whose time has not yet come to pass, I've had enough I've had it."

Almost the whole album (except maybe the Rowland S. Howard penned "Still Burning") is reflective of slow lingering pain. Certainly not the most easy Lunch recording to start with, but then you have to remember what Lunch had been through early on, and she was still young yet when she recorded this. I see this record as a turning point in her career where she looks back on her life and gets what she had dwelling in her mind off her chest in order to move on. It's not the most pleasant musical experience, but with top-drawer musicians at her side here it's too well done to ignore no matter how ugly.

So in spite of this not being a particularly cheerful release, I still think this is one of Lunch's strongest statements. A difficult, overlooked but vital gem.

Reviews Index