More Fun Than The Material Girl

Maybe it's because I'm so disappointed with the new Madonna album that I fear I'm

overrating this Mediterranean spitfire with impeccable taste in arm-wear

(although she rails against apathetic types obsessed with "making sure your

watch looks just right"). But even there she reverses a tired complaint into a

great pun: "And second hand opinions don't make you look any smarter" (get it?

second hand? of a watch?). And what sounds at first to be a case of Ani

DiFranco-lite actually turns out to be a loopy account of one woman's

misfortune with those mind-fucking, codependent assholes we call men.

Those smitten with the breakthrough single, "Torn," will find, once they dive into the rest of the album, that Imbruglia

casts her net wider than DiFranco.

Nat feels all Elvis-like, alone in a crowded room, in a slow-paced tearjerker,

"Pigeons and Crumbs." But just as you're about to get bored with the second

verse, she throws in some delightful pinball machine sound effects as she's

singing "I'm sinking in quicksand tonight." It sounds so yummy that you start

to think that she's having more fun avoiding the hobnobbers that surround her.

One thing we probably couldn't have predicted is that on some tracks she

rocks harder than Matchbox 20 and The Verve Pipe combined. "One More

Addiction," for instance, sprays wah-wah and guitar crunch all over

Imbruglia's bitterly fed-up invective cast upon a guy who just keeps her

hangin' on. Other highlights include a Brady Bunch-like singalong on

"Wishing I Was There" and "Leave Me Alone" -- the debonair, melodic morsel

Portishead left off their new album.

Now that what's-her-name has resorted to chanting in Sanskrit (and providing

translations, no less!), I'm looking to such flawed but trashy and fun tough

gals like Noella Hutton and Imbruglia to provide the kick the Material Girl

once offered.