“Nostalgia can be wonderful and amazing. It’s OK to look back. But then you gotta get the fuck out of there.” So says singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, explaining the theme of her new album, Nostalgia Kills.
On Nostalgia Kills (out September 14 on Jill’s own Pinko Records), the woman hailed by The New York Times for making “grown-up music for an adolescent age” turns her warm wit and poet’s eye on herself more than ever before, revisiting moments from throughout her life that made her into the person she is today. It’s an especially poignant look back at childhood — “exorcising some junior high school demons,” as she puts it.
Looking back is a new experience for Jill Sobule. Ever since she first caught mainstream attention with her 1995 song “I Kissed a Girl” — the first song about same-sex romance ever to crack the Billboard Top 20 (and no relation to the later Katy Perry tune) — she’s always pushed forward, exploring new sounds and subject matter with each passing album and refusing to be pigeonholed by her early hits (which also include the ‘90s alt-rock anthem “Supermodel,” featured in an iconic scene in the film Clueless).
Along the way, Jill has shared stages with the likes of Billy Bragg, Cyndi Lauper and Warren Zevon, written music for TV and theater, and been a pioneer in the art of crowdfunding, raising so much money for her 2009 album California Years that a then-unknown startup called Kickstarter came to her for advice. She’s also been active in numerous social and political causes, performing at prisons as part of Wayne Kramer’s Jail Guitar Doors project, playing dates with Lady Parts Justice’s “Vagical Mystery Tour,” and curating Monster Protest Jams Vol. 1, featuring protest songs by Tom Morello, Billy Bragg, Boots Riley, Amanda Palmer, Jackson Browne and many other great artists — including Jill’s own “When They Say We Want Our America Back, What the F#@k Do They Mean?”, which traces the history of anti-immigrant sentiment in America.
For all its graceful, funny and heartbreaking explorations of awkward youth and grown-up regrets, Nostalgia Kills is as of-the-moment as anything in Jill Sobule’s catalog. Through her own experiences, she explores issues our society still collectively struggles with (LGBTQ rights, teen mental health, our unhealthy obsession with staying forever young) and gently skewers our tendency to dwell on the past at the expense of addressing the present. As she sings on the title track: “We look at ourselves in a long row of mirrors/We get smaller and smaller with each passing year/We have to keep moving or die.”