Album Reviews Ma'am of action

Published on September 18th, 2023 | by Allan Raible


Phoebe Kreutz’s “Ma’am of Action” review

Anti-folk mainstay, Phoebe Kreutz follows up her 2021 EP, “Leaky Canoe,” with a new release on the first of September. “Ma’am of Action,” finds Kreutz once again backed up and assisted by Canadian rockers, The Burning Hell, who serve as her backing band throughout the set.

The album opens with “Lousy Date,” a jaunty, ska-infused ode to self-care, that almost sounds like what would happen if Kreutz recorded a song fronting the English Beat. (Known simply as “the Beat” in England.) It is Kreutz’s literate, self-deprecating wit that truly sets her apart from the pack and makes this song a playful addition to any summer soundtrack.

“Good in Bed,” is a slice of sleek, semi-suggestive new-wave that sounds like it would go well on a playlist next to anything from Wet Leg’s critically-acclaimed 2021 debut. This is an alt-rock hit waiting to happen and with its cheeky lyrical left turns, it keeps the listeners on their heels. Kreutz has always had potential crossover hits on her records. Standouts over the years include the deeply affecting, somber ballad, “Bull Run Beer Run,” from 2007’s “Big Lousy Moon,” and the politically-pointed standout, “Country Right Now,” from the previously mentioned “Leaky Canoe.” I fully believe that if the right ears had heard, “Carnival Man,” from 2011’a “Bemusement Park,” that song and perhaps Kreutz as an artist would be a left-field, AAA radio format staple. “Good in Bed” has different, but similarly wide potential.

“The Real Heroes” is something no one was expecting. It’s a Ragtime-injected slacker anthem and it hits its apex at the point where Kreutz calls out for the piano solo.

“Ma’am, I Am” is a relatable meditation on realizing your perceived age by others may not match how you feel inside, complete with a barista who will go down in history alongside other characters in Kreutz’s songs. This barista who “could be (her) little sister” could serve as interesting companion piece to her exchange with “Gary, the new guy at Taco Bell,” from “The Taco Bell Song,” 20 years ago. Time passes and is unforgiving, but there is laughter to be found in that dark realization.

The set closes with “I Give a Shit About Birds,” which is a reflection on how our focuses have changed, particularly post-pandemic. Years from now, this will be a time-capsule that effectively captures the weirdness of the isolating, attention-diverting COVID years.

Phoebe Kreutz is always reliable, but this set may very well be her strongest collection since “Big Lousy Moon.” I find myself wishing it was longer. Perhaps a full-length album. Then again, maybe its strength partly lies in its almost combustible succinctness.

At its core, the EP continues to show that like her peers, Casey Holford and Art Sorority’s Daoud Tyler-Ameen, Kreutz knows her way around a good pop song. She can deliver winningly and uniquely twisted songs and pair them with melodies that really stick.

Album cover

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