I first became a fan of Jill Sobule’s after hearing her 1997 album, Happy Town. Though I was familiar with her work via her earlier singles, “I Kissed a Girl” which appears on her second album, Jill Sobule and “Supermodel,” which became a hit after being featured in Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film, Clueless, I hadn’t really paid much attention to her.
But after listening to Happy Town on a listening station at a local record store, and hearing songs like “Bitter,” “Barren Egg” and “When My Ship Comes In,” I was hooked on her sardonic wit, catchy melodies and gorgeous voice.
After purchasing, and becoming obsessed with, Happy Town, I immediately started collecting the rest of her discography and I was pleasantly surprised by her 1990 debut, Things Here Are Different. For the most part, this album wasn’t like than anything I’d heard on Happy Town, Jill Sobule or Pink Pearl, the album that had just been released when I became a Sobule fan.
Instead of a record peppered with satirical songs and upbeat melodies, I found that Things Here Are Different was full of songs with introspective lyrics and subtle, more rock-oriented arrangements. Produced, mixed and engineered by Todd Rundgren, Things Here Are Different leans more towards a pop/rock sound than much of her subsequent work, which tends to be more pop/folk. It produced two singles, “Too Cool to Fall in Love,” which hit #17 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart, and “Living Color.”
“Too Cool to Fall in Love”
While it is missing the outwardly satirical songs Sobule is most known for, the album does contain lyrics that provide commentary on topics such as the Évian Conference in “Évian” and the perception of women in other countries in “Pilar (Things Here Are Different).” It also contains some of Sobule’s most poignant ballads — which I think she does just as well, if not better than, her more upbeat, funny songs — such as “Sad Beauty” and “Life Goes On Without You,” the latter of which is mostly Sobule and her guitar and could easily fit on any of her next three albums.
Sadly, Things Here Are Different didn’t sell well at all, despite having a heavyweight like Rundgren behind it. A follow-up album had been produced by Joe Jackson, but before it could be released, Sobule’s lable, MCA, dropped her. It would be five years of tough times and odd jobs before she would get another record deal, this time with Atlantic, and release her self-titled sophomore album.
Though this isn’t my favorite Sobule album (that honor goes to Pink Pearl), I do think it’s one of her best and an underrated gem. If you are someone who enjoys her more satirical, pop/folk songs, it might take you awhile to get into this record — it took a few listens for me to really appreciate it. Because its sound is different from her other work, it proves that she is a versatile artist able to draw on a variety of genres and inspirations to produce interesting, intelligent, yet accessible, music.