With her gritty electro-dance tune "Booty Queen," Baltimore's Lizz King launches a sneak attack worthy of Werner Herzog. It's a catchy, spooky little number featuring the refrain "Oo la la, she's just a baby" over samples covering the history of the Big Bad Wolf in pop culture. By the line "Jon-Benet Ramsey wants some candy," you're already half-singing along. And so King briefly implicates her listeners in a set of unpleasant associations involving baby beauty queens.
King likes to play with expectations, and her debut album is full of surprises. An inconsistent but intriguing effort, it alternately flirts with feminist electro-fuzz and swoons on Cole Porter's doorstep. The industrial "Mr. Fella" incorporates snippets from "I Walk the Line," references Madonna's "Express Yourself," and features the words "I love you so much" spoken with impressive rancor.
What is love, anyway? These fuzzy, electronic, sample-heavy experiments are fun the first few listens, but the album's strength lies in several stripped-down torch songs, including "Teeth and Lips," "Tongue Tied" and "Either/Or." Strumming a ukulele or plucking a banjo, King sings with a low, throaty croon. At her best, she is frank, intimate and saucy like a latter-day Marlene Dietrich.
Lizz King plays the Palace Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 9 PM with Breezee One, Bryan Ramirez and Colin Johnson. $5.