'Diamond Jubilee' Is a Glittering Showcase for the Genius of Cindy Lee

Exclaim! Staff Picks

BY Kaelen BellPublished Apr 2, 2024

At first blush, Cindy Lee embodies diva-hood in the old-school sense — a Supreme, a Ronette, Dusty Springfield if she traded beehives for synthetic bobs — but there's an essential new-school grit under her lacquered nails, an outlaw rumble that shakes her diamonds. In reality, she's more a disciple of disruptive freewheelers like Jenny Mae Leffel and Benjamin Smoke, those who exalted and subverted the diva archetype with their smoke-saturated genius. There's a genuine danger to Patrick Flegel's work as Cindy Lee, an urgency and intimacy that reveals the authenticity that exists in costume — when Cindy Lee peels herself from beneath Flegel's skin, it's life or death. 

Flegel's latest dispatch as Cindy Lee is Diamond Jubilee, a sprawling, overwhelming masterwork currently available only in WAV format via Flegel's GeoCities site (or on YouTube). It's the greatest thing Cindy Lee's ever put her name to; a radio signal from another era, scrambled by alien frequencies on its way to us.

Built on strains of '50s girl group pop, lush '60s psychedelia, itchy '70s radio rock, lo-fi '90s clutter and sparkling production choices grafted on from some alternate universe, Diamond Jubilee feels like the defining portrait of Cindy Lee as both artist and vessel. Folding decades of musical forms into one distinctive language, it's difficult to take in the record's entirety in one sitting (at just over two hours, it's about finding the time more than anything else), but the reward for sticking around for the long haul is mighty.

Diamond Jubilee's 32 songs are each so stuffed with hooks and ideas that they should buckle under their own weight, but Flegel's keen ear (and Lee's disarming, otherworldly gravitational pull) keeps things snapping with a haunting, livewire energy. Give yourself over if you've got the time — and if you don't, you'd better find it. 


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