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Bif Naked’s lyrics strike in the first person. They’re unavoidable, like her tattoos or straightforward sexuality. Problem is, Naked’s music often lacks the same force of identity. She’s adopted numerous styles since her 1995 debut, from swaggering proto-metal and Garbage-style alt rock to mishmashes of balladry and anthemic pop. And while there are some great songs in there, her hodgepodge approach saps the music’s strength. It can even make Naked herself seem shallow, despite the unflagging honesty her fans hold dear.

Superbeautifulmonster corrects this a little with a distinct lyrical arc following the rise and fall of a relationship. (Naked’s first-person flair is particularly impressive on “That’s Life With Me,” “Funeral of a Good Girl” and “The Question Song.”) The strong frame allows the songs themselves to adjust between heavy, sly and happily pop moods. But it doesn’t forgive their formulaic sound, the way they could be anyone from No Doubt, to Pink, to the forgettable hard rock band tearing up your local alehouse. Bif put out a spoken-word collection (Okenspay Ordway) earlier this year that was direct, powerful and endearing. If she can shore up her music with more of that bared genius, Naked might be deadly.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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