Between 10 and 2
How do you solve a problem like TyLean? Perhaps it is her pre-occupation with nihilism, an ethos that I give about as much credit to as what Walter does in The Big Lebowski. I mean, seriously? She really believes in the ultimate worthlessness of everything? Why wake up, eat breakfast, or do something creative like write music if you truly believe that there is no worth or purpose to life? TyLean’s obsession with despair, child abuse, and insanity is just about as fun as watching Schindler’s List on repeat.
I’m not trying to imply that music needs to have some redemptive happiness in order for it to be good. For instance, I would be hard-pressed to find a single “joyful” moment in any song by Joy Division, but I don’t know anyone who would argue that their music isn’t completely amazing and worth listening to. However, music needs to have a hook, a carrot at the end of a stick, something that sets it apart and makes it interesting in order for it to be worth listening to—and TyLean's music is just missing something.
TyLean, for her part, seems to be taking the Fiona Apple approach of “I write for me not you,” and appears to be rather proud that some of her songs verge on the unlistenable. “Rosalyn,” for instance, chronicles a dream in which children at an orphanage are tortured, and (ahem!) separated from their skin. TyLean doesn’t seem concerned that some may be unwilling to listen to the song, and states on her own MySpace page that “If ‘Rosalyn’ got to them so much that they had to turn it off, then I have successfully recreated the dream, because I couldn't take any more or [sic] it either. 'Rosalyn' is my proudest accomplishment to date.” (If you are a nihilist who believes there is no purpose to anything, then why try to ascertain purpose from a dream, or even be proud of an accomplishment?)
Frankly, I’m not against music that is creepy, disturbing, sad, depressing, headache inducing, or otherwise nauseating. Peaches? Yes! Jesus Lizard? One of my favorite bands! AIDS Wolf? Bring it ON! The problem here is that TyLean just isn’t interesting enough.
TyLean has the right idea with a lot of great influences. She sounds a lot like a mash-up of Tori Amos and Rasputina—but she’s just not quite there. Her voice is great and she has interesting ideas with both cello and piano, but the ultimate problem is that she spoon-feeds her message to the audience too much of the time. Her video for “Corner of My Eye” is about a descent into insanity complete with images of her flapping about in a straight jacket inside a dark, dungeon-like, London tunnel while dry humping a dusty piano and being strangled by a dude who looks like a cross between Andre the Giant and Robert Plant.
TyLean’s kind of what would happen if the kids from “Goth Talk” on SNL formed a band. There is simply too much contrived freak show camp, and not enough true simmering terror. She rings inauthentic because she tells us what we should be thinking and heaps it on in dollops too big to swallow. Leave just a little bit to the imagination, TyLean; you don’t always need to proclaim it from the mountain.