Allie X Is an '80s Baby on 'Girl with No Face'

BY Luke PearsonPublished Feb 22, 2024


Allie X belongs to that unfortunate club of artists who had the bad luck of releasing important, career-shaping albums in early 2020 to an audience that would have surely been bigger and more predisposed if it hadn’t been in the early throes of the pandemic. That effort (the dusky and somewhat muted Cape God) seems a long way off from Girl with No Face, which remakes the Oakville, Ontario-born artist (real name Alexandra Hughes) as a strutting, cutting ‘80s pop diva.

On Girl with No Face, Hughes is keyed into a particular sound like she hasn’t been previously, succinctly describing the record as “synthesizers, Giorgio Moroder and New Order.” It’s a sleek bit of marketing that perhaps unintentionally exposes the gears of contrivance turning behind the scenes. Hughes leans into the witchy wailing and period-perfect yelps (The Wild Heart-era Stevie Nicks; lots of Blondie and early Madonna) without losing her essential weirdness, and there are enough amusing curveballs here (Devo anyone?) to keep things memorable.

Hughes wrote and produced everything herself, adding colour and detail to an era that often had some pretty impoverished sound design; every song on Girl with No Face slaps like it’s 2024. The drum programming is especially good: crisp and nimble, and punching hard when it needs to, though there’s a point toward album’s end when your gaze might meet the ceiling as “Staying Power” opens with the same eighth-note bass rhythm you’ve been hearing throughout — Hughes is committed to the bit, that much can’t be denied.

The album’s best moments are when that commitment is delivered with a more clearly defined wink. “You Slept on Me” has every ‘80s touchstone turned to eleven (strong aerobics-video fever-dream energy here), but it’s frothy and fun in a way some of the more straight-ahead period emulation on the rest of the album isn’t. The title track is another highlight, with its unhurried swagger and skronky guitars, and it offers one of the only glimpses of Hughes’s previous style; it may leave some yearning for more. And of course, “Off with Her Tits” has lip sync for your life written all over it — make it happen Brooke Lynn.

If it weren’t for Hughes’s amusing weirdness (more Grimes than Carly Rae, more Misfits than Gem), there would be a risk of her identity getting lost in all the reverence here — and there are places where it still may — but the confidence and songwriting on display prove that Allie X-goes-‘80s is a strong enough concept to carry her for one album.

(Twin Music Inc)

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