|Current music:||Beth Orton - Absinthe|
Beth Orton - Comfort Of Strangers
Poor, poor Beth. Four years ago, she was riding high on the back of the critically acclaimed (and brilliant) Central Reservation, lady of all she surveyed, hobnobbing with the Chemical Brothers for the extra cool points and a bit of electronic edge, and alone on the top of her mountain. Folky electronica was her Thing.
Then came Daybreaker; an overly programmed, turgid mess, music to be hung over to, and ultimately pretty dull. That mountain got pretty small pretty fast, and a throwaway Best Of the next year, bye bye Heavenly Records, and she disappeared for three years.
And now she's returned with Comfort Of Strangers, to reclaim that empty mountain. Unfortunately, that mountain isn't empty any more; it's now populated by people called Katie, with their own Things; Tunstall's musicianship and Melua's earth-shattering vocals are the new darlings, winning Brit Awards for fun (Tunstall - Best Female; and while we're talking Brits, why on earth did Coldplay get Best Album for what basically amounts to 45 Minutes Of Coldplay Sounding Exactly Like Coldplay? Wank, wank, wank).
But anyway. Those Things. After Daybreaker Orton seemed to realise the need for a rethink, and the rethink has cost her her Thing. COS is so stripped down as to be virtually acoustic, and it means the songs lack any bulk. The first five songs are gone in just twelve minutes, and while two-minute blasts are wonderful for grunge, punk and virtually any other genre you can care to name, it simply isn't good enough for acoustic music. They get lost and run together; I struggle to tell those tracks apart.
It gets better later on. Conceived is great, Heart Of Soul succeeds by trying to sound different, and Pieces Of Sky, the closer, is the brilliant standout. And guess what? It's the only one with anything resembling electronic touches.
But these days, she needs to do better. The young 'uns are coming. You know what she should have done? Released these two albums the other way round. This would have been a great album in 2002, and Daybreaker would have truly stood out from a crowd today. As it stands, this is a fairly average album.
Ah well. You live and learn.
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