Tag Archives: Bat For Lashes

The Good Natured

The first thing I found myself wondering when I visited the myspace page for The Good Natured was why on earth every aspiring “alternative” artist lists Japanese Pop as a generic descriptor for their music which bears little to no resemblance to such oriental greats as Shonen Knife.  Perhaps I was biased from the start, but it really didn’t get any better once the audio began.  She sounds like a characteristically insubstantial jelly wobbling around in the mould of Bat for Lashes and Florence + The Machine with the vocal capabilities of a toddling Lily Allen/Kate Nash hybrid.  Reading the reviews of the Your Body Is A Machine EP, it is difficult to conceive that Rory Carroll is anything but deluded in the assertion that ‘we may finally have a female artist who exists in a land without gimmicks, affected Mockney accents and gigantic quiffs,’ since that appears to be precisely what she delivers.  Alright, so perhaps she is actually a Londoner, but that doesn’t mean that her Cockney isn’t to be mocked.  The bizarre ensemble of instruments is little other than gimmicky, although it is difficult to tell (and largely irrelevant) whether or not she has a quiff.  Her lyrics are, on the whole, dire and tautological.  Rose is by far the best of a bad bunch.  I’ll give her a few years to grow a pair… of lungs, that is.

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Two Suns

Brighton-based neo-hippy siren Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes, released her second album Two Suns last week, a record which sees her talent for creating crystal-pure otherworldly sonic landscapes deepening like a majestic coastal shelf. More narratively self-reflexive than Fur and Gold, Two Suns explores the philosophy of the self and duality through the variously recurring voices of “two separate yet ultimately attached beings”, Natasha (a “wild and mystical desert being” who represents the spiritual element) and Pearl (a blonde femme fatale, apparently engendered when Khan tried on a silver wig in a party shop). Khan has also benefitted greatly from a collaboration with Yeasayer, bringing just the right amount of throttling percussion and pulsating bass to prevent the delicate web structure of her blippy folk from blowing away on the nearest mystical desert wind.

This is a record of many interplays and collaborations, some purposefully displayed (as between spiritual and vampish protagonists), others merely tacit, like the twin spheres of Brighton and New York in which Khan was travelling while writing the album, or the mountainous debt owed to Bjork, Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, and even contemporary stalwarts of creepy electronica the Knife. The most radio-friendly number ‘Daniel’, for example, rings with peals of Fleetwood Mac on a level which suggests that Khan’s exploration of identity might extend as far as the subsumption of self in favour of transcendence to the desired other; which is of course a ‘Pseuds Corner’-certified way of saying she as good as (Stevie) Nicked it.

Lyrically, the exploration of character and segregation of narrative voices has the potential for an intricately-woven tapestry of complex and conflicting impressions; something which isn’t quite utilised to its full mysterious potential with songs called ‘Pearl’s Dream’ and lyrics like, ahem, ‘my name is Pearl’. Gone too is the brooding, internal, kenning-laden poetry of Fur and Gold – no ‘bat-lightning hearts’ to be found flying here; instead a more Romantic, external focus on ‘crystal armour’ and ‘the giant iris of the wide blue sky’. This is no bad thing; yet sometimes the lyrics veer towards the predictably hippyish, and provide the only unalluring kind of insubstantiality to be found on the record.

Khan’s voice has refined to an even more spectacular carat on Two Suns than was found on Fur and Gold, and tracks like ‘Two Planets’ allow it to resound in spectral echoes which are quite simply stunning. While my Sugababes-indulged craving for Europop hooks is fulfilled (with a noir twist) by ‘Daniel’ and ‘Pearl’s Dream’, the fact that the rest of the album commands my gnat-sized attention and imagination is testament to the power and beauty of Khan’s ethereal storyscapes. The follow-up to Fur and Gold was always going to require an immense endeavour; Natasha Khan’s concept second offering is as good as anyone could have hoped for, the highlights of which are out of this world.

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The Seldom Seen Kid

After beginning this post twice about a different record only to have my attempts thwarted by the goblins which dwell in my computer, I took it as a sign that I should review something else. My original designs were for The Acorn‘s Glory Hope Mountain in an attempt to promote their appearance (rather incongruously) as support for Elbow on their imminent tour. Instead, I shall take a swipe at The Seldom Seen Kid as a marked contrast. The Mercury Music Prize has recently destroyed any faith I had in the residual justice of the music industry, by consistently rewarding musical atrocities since 2006 in a manner not dissimilar to the praise lavished upon the British architectural misdemeanors of the 1960s. In 2006, The Artic Monkeys prompted the domino effect, in demolishing more worthy competition, followed by the Klaxons‘ 2007 selection over Bat For Lashes and New Young Pony Club, and the trend continued in 2008 with Elbow‘s victory over the likes of Laura Marling. Had they been victorious with the brilliant Asleep in the Back in 2001, an incredibly tough year, I would have been more forgiving, but The Seldom Seen Kid is simply not of the same calibre.

Opening with a wholly inappropriate racket, “Starlings” then morphs into Lemon Jelly holidaying in Hawaii, and is further perverted by the frequent protests of an intrusive brass section (causing me to wince on the street), all before the lyrics make an attempt to gain control of the song. What appears to be striving to be a pleasant “Ode to a Mystery Woman” finds only a Byronic hero in its quest for literariness. The track is littered with supposed compliments such as “You are the only thing in any room you’re ever in”, which is destroyed by its objectifying tendencies. On being subjected to the line “Darling, is this love?” my thorough repulsion screamed for itself. Improving slightly with “The Bones of You” in a regression to the tonal quality of Asleep in the Back only the lyrical clumsiness and unecessary distortion are damaging. The highlights consist entirely of the gently reflective “Mirrorball”.

Everything is downhill from there. Beyond an attempt to construct a narrative from the remaining song titles, I don’t feel that any further commentary on the matter is either worthwhile or enjoyable. If a musical cocktail were to be created called “Grounds for Divorce”, it would need only to contain this record. Only a lesbian “Audience with the Pope” could be more awkward, particularly without good “Weather to Fly” home. Saying that, I now believe that I am at one with “The Lonliness of a Tower Crane Driver” whose banshee impersonation is beyond compare, and in need of “The Fix” which may only come from elsewhere. “Some Riot” would undoubtedly result if this were played in a prison perpetually “On A Day Like This”, and it would never become a “Friend of Ours”.

Glory Hope Mountain is rather spectacular, as are The Acorn, and a number of Elbow‘s other records; do buy those instead. Follow the links.

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