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Coachella 2011: Jenny & Johnny's dirty love songs

April 16, 2011 |  9:12 pm

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“This is a love song” said Jenny Lewis, introducing the song “Just Like Zeus” from her new project with collaborator/boyfriend Johnathan Rice under the name Jenny & Johnny. Alas, for romantics, it was a love song “dedicated to Jumbo’s Clown Room,” the East Hollywood striptease club.

For fans of sickly neon and tattooed stripper dilettantes, it was the sweetest mash note of the weekend so far. Jenny and Johnny may be one of indie rock’s first couples, but their love songs come riven with images of drawn knives, venomous snakes and Hollywood vice pits.

Images from the 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

Their music draws from a well of Evan Dando/Juliana Hatfield '90s slacker rock, but livened up with classic country grace and meticulous harmonies. “Big Wave” rode a thicket of distorted guitars and doo-wop catcalls; Rice’s more harrowing “Animal” made up for its severe Israel-Palestine musings with a more haunting declaration: “If you lose your fear of God, you are an animal at heart.”

But most of it was otherwise genial. Lewis is one of the best wise-crackers in rock, and clearly her mod-Stevie Nicks fashion vibe informed the dress code for about 99% of the women in attendance. But to take the two of them together was like watching an indie rock version of “The Thin Man.” They’re a couple, clearly in love, trading boozy barbs while investigating the mysteries of the heart. Or having a lark with this never-less-than-winsome side project. Likely both at once.

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-- August Brown

Photo: Jenny and Johnny perform Saturday at the Coachella Vallley Music & Arts Festival in Indio. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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