Mike Atkinson

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Sunday February 25

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Rescue Rooms by Mike A on February 26, 2007

Judging by Jason Reece’s decidedly jaded, world-weary interview with the Post last week, you might have thought that the Trail of Dead were something of a spent force; ground down by the gruelling repetition of touring, and suffering from a cool reception and a lack of promotion for So Divided, their most recent release.

On stage, none of that cynicism was in evidence. The band, now fleshed out to a six-piece, delivered an impassioned, committed performance in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd, which sported one of Nottingham’s more mature mosh pits. It was heartening to see that teenage “emo” audiences don’t enjoy a monopoly on having a raucous good time.

That said, tracks from So Divided were conspicuous by their almost total absence. Maybe it’s not just the critics and the record company who nurse doubts about its worth. Instead, we were treated to a retrospective set, largely drawn from 2002’s Source Tags and 2005’s Worlds Apart.

Although a far cry from the thrashy young pups who blew the roof off The Social and The Boat Club back in 2000, relative maturity suits the Trail of Dead well. This was an assured, powerful, controlled set, climaxing with a stunning rendition of old favourite Mistakes and Regrets.

Interview: Jason Reece, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

Posted in interviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 23, 2007

This touring lark; it’s not all freewheeling rock and roll mayhem, you know. For the Trail of Dead’s Jason Reece, domestic duties sometimes feature higher on the agenda.

“The tour’s going good; I did laundry today. Oxford is the traditional laundry stop on our UK tours.”

The clothes weren’t washed by hand, surely?

“Well, no. We use machines these days. There’s a launderette near the venue, and it seems to be the only one in the northern UK.”

As our conversation threatened to get bogged down in a comparative analysis of launderette facilities in the US and the UK, I moved Jason on to other matters.

Playing in Glasgow last week, some over-enthusiastic use of the percussion had resulted in a broken bass drum pedal – a reminder that the band haven’t always enjoyed the best of luck with their equipment over here. At a show at the Boat Club in 2000, they recklessly dismantled their drum kit and passed it over the heads of the crowd – now, there’s rock and roll mayhem for you – only to find themselves missing a cymbal at the end of the night, and sheepishly having to ask for its return. Seven years on, do they still get the urge to hand out pieces of kit to their audience?

“The urge might be there – but we don’t usually do it until the very last day of the tour.”

Because things still have a habit of not being returned?

“It’s probably a worse problem in the UK. But I don’t think that we emphasise the kind of spectacle that we used to, back in the day. We’re a little bit more focussed on playing music.”

Back in 2000, the typical Trail of Dead set was speedy, thrashy, and full-throttle. Listening to the most recent album (So Divided), it’s clear that the music has gone through some big changes. How would Jason describe the band’s musical journey over the past seven years?

“As an increase in maturity. It’s also had its moments of disillusionment: starting off with an optimism about the state of music, and then seeing that such hopes were futile. Then coming out of that tunnel, to realise that you can’t really force people to appreciate music other than the way they want to. So you’ve just got to go with it, I suppose.”

That initial sense of optimism, so evident in the early shows, stands in marked contrast to many of the lyrics on So Divided. One song, Eight Day Hell, sounds at first like a surprisingly sweet, conventional pop song – but it in fact describes a pretty miserable tour of the UK. Are we always that bad, or was that a particularly awful tour?

“Well, it was opening up for Audioslave, if that explains anything.”

Oh, bad luck…

“It wasn’t really playing for our audience, but more like playing for someone else’s audience. What’s that guy’s name, Kurt Cobain? Oh, sorry – Chris Cornell. I get those two mixed up.”

Meow, Jason. Claws away!

“It wasn’t very fun at all, and it was very disillusioning – especially thinking that’s what fandom is about. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we’re creating worthwhile music – but at the end of the day, you’re filling stadiums up with people who want to listen to freaking Black Hole Sun, you know? So you’re like: OK, if that’s what they want, then they’ll burn in hell…”

Was there a deliberate irony in wrapping those feelings inside an atypically chirpy, bouncy pop tune, with the risk that people might just hear the bouncy pop and miss the message?

“To me, songs are all about the lyrics. If a person isn’t really listening to the lyrics, then I don’t think that they’re getting the song at all. It doesn’t matter whether it’s happy sounding or sad sounding – if you don’t listen to the lyrics of the song, then you are obviously appreciating music for the wrong reasons. The lyrics are the message; it’s like the libretto of an opera.”

The same lyrical themes are evident on the song Wasted State of Mind, which takes a similarly bleak view of touring. (“You can run, but get no further than three city blocks from where you began.”) Does travel not broaden the mind?

“It can, when the travel is good. However, you’ve got to understand that by the time that we did that tour, we’d played the UK and Germany and America eight or nine times – and I don’t think that going back to the same places over and over again is necessarily travelling. I can get excited about us going to Russia or Greece for the first time – but us going to Cologne, Germany for the eighth time is hardly exciting.”

So travelling as part of a rock band is essentially like anyone travelling on business. Airport, hotel, the usual dull routine…

”Yeah, and especially when you’re somewhere as boring as Cologne, Germany.” Ouch.

“But believe me, all of that beats touring in America, which can be really, truly tedious. It doesn’t always come down to the “excitement of travel”. It can sometimes come down to the tedium of having to go to a dead-end town, and the reminder that outside of your happy metropolis is just a wasteland of culture, you know? It’s what millions and millions of people are seeing day to day, growing up there and dying there. That’s a pretty bleak picture.”

Following disputes with the record label over a perceived lack of promotion for So Divided – and particularly over a recent promotional video, which was filmed without the band’s knowledge or consent – will the band be looking for a new label for the next album?

“You know what – if they want another record from us, we’ll put another one out. I feel like I tried really hard to get them to drop us with this record – but they seemed to like it, so there you go. To me, a label is about as arbitrary as anything could possibly be. It doesn’t really matter what you come out on. It doesn’t even really matter whether the label supports you at all. Promotion has so much more to do with the way that the band promotes itself, rather than anything that can be generated in the press.”

One of the band’s defining characteristics is the way that they swap instruments with each other during the course of their live sets. Is this swapping as arbitrary as choosing a record label?

“No, that’s not arbitrary. It’s very pre-meditated. That goes back to a philosophy of the band: that whoever is suited to play an instrument on a song, ought to. It doesn’t have to do with musicianship, and it’s not to do with who played what instrument when the song was first recorded. It’s more to do with how we can make the song sound best for the live performance. And that changes from tour to tour.”

On the basis of our decidedly downbeat conversation, it sounds as if the Trail of Dead are a band in sore need of cheering up. In which case, why not come along to the Rescue Rooms on Sunday night, and see if you can put smiles on their faces. Just don’t go touching that drum kit, OK?

Interview: Joan Baez

Posted in interviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 23, 2007

A slightly croaky but otherwise buoyant Joan Baez spoke to EG from her home in California. Congratulations duly offered on her recent Lifetime Achievement award at the Grammys, our conversation turned to the recent re-release of Ring Them Bells, a double live set from 1995. Recorded over two nights at the Bottom Line club in New York’s Greenwich Village, this features six previously unreleased tracks, and collaborations with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Janis Ian, the Indigo Girls and many others.

According to Joan, the club – which shut for good in 2003 – was chosen for its intimacy and its reputation as a landmark venue, despite the “terrible, notorious” state of its backstage area.

“It was the perfect place. I wish they could have cleaned up the dressing rooms – but they could afford to be all sloppy, because everyone wanted to be there”, she recalled with a wry chuckle.

Baez has been known throughout her career for mixing self-penned material with carefully chosen covers, often by emerging songwriting talents. When performing, how does she strike a balance between the two?

“It’s more a case of: how do I cover fifty years? Even though there’s mountains of material, it’s not always that easy to make it flow properly. But there’s enough leeway to add and subtract things – and that in itself is an art.”

“It’s good to be spontaneous – and the audience loves it when you make a mistake. They like it best when you completely forget the words.”

As a long-standing critic of the political establishment, Baez has been known for her campaigning work almost as much as her music – and many will remember the 2003 landmine benefit in Leicester, when she was joined on stage by Chrissie Hynde, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. Have other causes taken precedence since then?

“Actually, my family’s taking precedence. I have a grandchild of three, and my parents are both ninety-three. Things I never allowed myself to do in the 1960s, like spending time with the family, I do a lot of now.”

“The politics remain the same, and the way I feel about things hasn’t changed – but I have made the choice not to try and be out front, unless it really makes sense for me to that. There’s a value in being selective, but I didn’t realise that when I was younger. I tried to do everything!”

As a figurehead of the original civil rights movement, did Joan think that there was a place for a similar movement in 2007?

“If so, then it’s a place which people are going to have to make for themselves. If it’s left up to this government, then there’s no place for anything. People are only now beginning to realise that they can make their own place. People were so terribly intimidated, for so many years, by this bunch of bozos in office!”

Compared to the surge of music which sprung up as a response to the Vietnam war in the 1960s, and also to the nuclear arms race of the 1980s, it feels as if there has been a remarkably quiet musical reaction to the issues raised by the Iraq war.

“There are lots of songs, but they’re not played on official radio stations. But more than that, if we wait for history somehow to repeat itself – “Why isn’t somebody writing Blowing In The Wind or Imagine?” – then sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.”

“First of all, in the 1960s it almost became the vogue to write protest songs. There was a superfluity of them. And then there were those strange years – the Reagan years, and forward from that – where it became not even a concept for people, at least on a commercial scale.”

“The good writers, who have a sense of feeling beyond themselves, do write what could be considered protest songs – but they’re not anthems. The people who are still waiting for that are missing the point. In a sense, you could say that the Internet has replaced what we had back then. The cohesiveness we have now is coming from the Internet.”

Most of us are able to move on from the things that we’ve said and done in our younger days, but an artist is constantly reminded of all their past words, thoughts and deeds. Is it possible to stand by the words of thirty or forty years ago – or does it feel strange to sing them now, when perhaps you have become a different person?

“It feels strange sometimes to hear the delivery”, admitted Joan, “but the basic roots of my beliefs have remained astoundingly the same.”

“Sure, many of us look back and wince a little bit at the appearance, or the style – but what surprises me is the amount of what I said and did that still rings true to me. I’m glad about that, as a lot of people change to the point where they wouldn’t want to hear any of it.”

Many artists burn brightly for a short while, but then fade away. A lucky few might return in later life, after a period in the wilderness. As someone who has never really been away, what is it that keeps Joan Baez out there, still going strong?

“Talent!”

A refereshingly honest answer, if a little short on detail. After some prompting – and no small measure of laughter – Joan elaborated further.

“It’s also tremendously hard work. At the beginning, it wasn’t work at all. That was one of the problems; I just sang for the first twenty years, and I assumed that was how it would always be. I’d open my mouth, and the voice would come out. And lo and behold: I was mortal, and I had to start working with a coach. Which I do now, and I’ll do as long as I’m singing.”

“There’s no difference between the muscles in my throat and the muscles in a tennis player’s arm. How he breathes and moves and exercises, and so on – it’s a never-ending re-learning.”

One final, topical question. As a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, does Joan favour Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for the presidential candidacy in 2008?

“Obama’s adorable, isn’t he? But at this point, for the first time ever in my life, I’ve thought: well, it really is necessary to bump these psychopaths that we have running the country. And if Hillary is the most effective and efficient, then okay.”

“I don’t really like any of them much, though. I can’t say that on a personal level, because I don’t know them personally. But my politics has always been done from a different angle. I think if Martin Luther King had run for president, he would have lost his strength. I think he was smart enough to know that. They wanted to draft him to run for president, but he really belonged on the streets, and in the churches, as that way he could say what he wanted to say.”

People sometimes say that politics is the art of the possible. They particularly say it when seeking to justify the compromises which they have to make along the way. Perhaps we also need others out there who feel free enough to demand the impossible, in the hope that it may become possible in the future. If we do, then Joan Baez – feisty, outspoken and staunch in the defence of the principles which have sustained her for the past fifty years – is someone who surely fits that latter category.

The X Factor Live – Nottingham Arena, Wednesday February 21

Posted in Capital FM Arena, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 21, 2007

First things first. The X Factor is a talent show. For the contestants, it’s a chance to make dreams come true – however short-lived those dreams might turn out to be. For the voting audience, it’s a chance to identify with the ordinary people who apply for the show – to follow their journeys, and to stake a claim in their success stories.

As a talent show, The X Factor can only measure potential. Its contestants are forced into a bear pit, which magnifies their hunger for fame – but its very nature dictates that they are never given the chance to develop as individual artists. Instead, a series of well-worn classics from established stars is forced upon them, setting up comparisons which are rarely fulfilled.

In a live setting, the naïve inexperience of these hopefuls is magnified to an almost cruel degree. Some acts, such as the show’s much put-upon underdogs the MacDonald Brothers, stepped up to the mark, and acquitted themselves with competence and dignity. They understood the game. Knowing that these are the biggest stages that they will ever appear on, they seized the moment and had a ball.

For other, lesser talents, the underlying desperation could not be masked. Witnessing Robert earnestly massacring All Night Long and Ashley clumsily grandstanding his way through Easy was, to anyone who cares about music as opposed to mere spectacle, a depressing experience.

Opening the show’s second half, gravel-voiced Ben Mills played shamelessly to the crowd, smothering any chance of making an emotional connection under layers of directionless bombast. Pint-sized swinger Ray Quinn opted for the sentimental angle, belting out My Way in pure Las Vegas style. Only Leona Lewis – the show’s ultimate champion and a truly gifted, soulful vocalist – displayed anything resembling real star quality. The night belonged to her.

Duke Special – The Social, Nottingham, Monday February 19

Posted in Bodega, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 20, 2007

Following a well received support slot with the Divine Comedy last November, the Irish singer-songwriter Duke Special returned for his first headline appearance at a sold-out Social.

Wreathed in raggedy dreadlocks and dark eyeliner, Duke describes himself as a mixture between a soul singer and a vaudeville performer. Sounding at times like a gentler Rufus Wainwright, but shot through with a more pronounced Irish brogue than is apparent on his recorded work, his vocals were pitch-perfect and faultless.

The three piece band – featuring an outstanding clarinet and saxophone player – gave the songs an old-fashioned feel, which evoked the spirit of Kurt Weill. They were at their best on rousing numbers such as Everybody Wants A Little Something and Last Night I Nearly Died, which stirred a respectful but subdued crowd into a massed singalong.

However, there was no escaping a sense of expectations that were not fully delivered. Despite promising playfulness, theatricality and illusion, the bulk of the set was played disappointingly straight, and failed to strike a sufficient rapport between performers and audience.

Just as fatigue was setting in, the band pulled out all the stops. A yearning, soaring Freewheel ensnared our emotions, and an extended, free-form Salvation Tambourine saw Duke balancing precariously atop his battered upright piano.

A terrific encore started with an intimate rendition of Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, complete with fluffed lines and laughter, and ended with the band standing on the bar, performing without amplification, and charming the socks off the whole venue.

Interview: Duke Special

Posted in interviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 16, 2007

EG caught up with Duke Special (aka Peter Wilson) shortly after the Meteor Awards, Ireland’s version of the Brits. Having been nominated in three categories, he came away empty-handed – although the evening did have its compensations:

“The Best Album award went to Snow Patrol – but the cool thing was that Gary (Lightbody), when receiving the award, said that Duke Special should have won. Then he held the award up, and got everyone to clap!”

Erm, isn’t that what award winners usually do on these occasions? Still, it’s an impressive endorsement. As for duplicating his Irish success in the UK, Duke is taking a relaxed, long-term view.

“I’ve been working in both places equally – but Ireland’s population is less than London, so it’s easier to succeed over there. It’s served people like Damian Rice and David Gray well in the past. The way I’ve gone about things has been very organic – just going back and playing the same places over and over, and people bringing their friends along. It’s only in the last six months that there’s been any kind of media attention.”

When it comes to his performing alter ego, where does Duke Special start, and where does Peter Wilson end?

“It was important to have a name that said something about what I was doing, in the same way as having a band name is like setting your stall out. Peter Wilson is a very popular name, shall we say, so I wanted something a bit more enigmatic. What I want to portray on stage has elements of theatre and performance, that’s more than just ambling on and singing some songs – so having an alter ego helps.”

But with any alter ego, the boundaries can blur. In some cases, artists have turned into their aliases, dropping their real names altogether.

“Well, unlike Elton John, no-one’s going to think that my parents gave me this name! It’s more like Badly Drawn Boy – a suitable vehicle to do what you do onstage. Some people call me Duke, but never my close friends and family.”

It’s a reassuringly well-balanced answer. So what are Duke’s – or rather Peter’s – major musical influences?

“It’s constantly changing. When I was very young, it was Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson. Tom Waits was an epiphany for me, in terms of presenting something in a more showmanlike way. There were old country records which my Dad would have played, and my Mum used to play Nana Mouskouri every Christmas!”

“There are certain things which get under your skin, whether you like it or not – like my mum singing You Are My Sunshine, and a lot of novelty songs from my Dad. I’ve never wanted to be overly earnest when I’m singing. I feel like a mixture between a soul singer and a vaudeville performer. I want to say something that is meaningful and has depth, but I also want to make it playful and entertaining.”

How does Duke feel about the frequent comparisons with Rufus Wainwright? Flattered, annoyed or bemused?

“Before Rufus, there was nothing like that in the mainstream – so the comparison is tempting. He’s been a pointer for me along the way. When I heard him, I thought: Brilliant, there’s another person doing this! What he does is absolutely incredible, and he’s further on than I am – but his collaborations with the likes of Van Dyke Parks, and his orchestral approach to pop music, make everything sound as if it’s in its own world.”

Whereas Wainwright takes an arch, detached approach, Duke’s songs feel warmer, and more emotionally direct.

“Perhaps. I start my writing from a point of experience – where I collide with something, and it throws something to the surface – and I think inevitably, most songwriters will do the same. There will be some kernel of reality in there, and then songs can go off somewhere else, and even become fiction. In some respects, I don’t mind what people get out of a song – what’s important is that it impacts them in some way. So it doesn’t matter whether the events in the song happened or not, as long as I believe it when I sing it.”

As if to emphasise the fictional elements in his songs, Duke’s album is illustrated with various cute looking animals, which look as if they have sprung from the pages of a fairy tale. Animated versions of these animals also star in his videos.

“An illustrator friend approached me, and asked whether he could experiment with my music. We had no idea what angle it would take. The second picture he drew was of an old theatre in the middle of a forest, with branches encroaching over the top of it, and an audience of bears. I loved it, and said to him: whatever happens, I want this to be the next album cover. I then called the album – which I hadn’t even written – Songs from the Deep Forest. Over the next year, he collaborated with me: listening to the music, and providing the other illustrations. So it was an evolution of ideas between the two of us.”

“Fairy tales are child-like – but there’s a darkness in them as well, which sometimes comes to the surface. That really appealed to me. As you emerge into adulthood, you realise that people aren’t perfect, and that a lot of bad stuff goes on in the world. Suddenly you’re discovering all this bad stuff within yourself – but you’re also trying to hold onto a sense of child-like wonder.”

This mixture of lightness and darkness is reflected in the songs. Many are jaunty, catchy and musically uplifting – but other more bruised qualities emerge in the lyrics, and the two elements play against each other in an interesting way.

“I want to convey that contrast in the live shows. There’s a whole visual aspect to play with. It’s important to give people some visual cues. I want them to walk in and know that it’s not going to be just another singer-songwriter, but another world.”

As an artist who revels in playing to an audience, Duke’s music takes on an extra dimension when heard live – but can that live sound be captured in the studio?

“I approach them in two different ways. Playing live, I want to pull in elements of theatre and illusion – whereas recording an album is like making a film. An album is hopefully something which you’ll be happy to hear over and over again, improving with each listening – whereas a live set is something of the moment, and right for that particular audience.”

Speaking of pitching to the right audience on the right night: if invited onto Al Murray’s Happy Hour, where all guests must perform something by Queen, which song would Duke pick?

“It would have to be from A Night At The Opera, which was my first Queen album. Bohemian Rhapsody might be a little ambitious and over-cooked. I really like the John Deacon song that goes: Ooh, you make me feel…

You’re My Best Friend it is, then. A fitting choice for such a genial, open-hearted artist, whose music often feels like one extended bear-hug.

Interview: Shayne Ward

Posted in interviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 9, 2007

The Evening Post caught up with Shayne Ward – winner of The X Factor in 2005 – in Dublin, on the fourth day of his first major headline tour. Although an affable, courteous chap, he showed all the signs of intensive “media training”, and never let his guard down for a moment.

So, how was the tour going so far?

“It’s going absolutely fantastic. A great response. I’m really excited about doing this. It’s just really great fun.”

Gee, thanks for the insight. This could be a tough one, folks…

Last summer, following some nasty problems with his vocal cords, Shayne was flown to Los Angeles for an operation.

“It was a great success – and it was the best decision I could have made, because the voice has come back 100 percent.”

The throat problems certainly haven’t been holding Shayne back, even though his British fans haven’t seen much of him for a while.

“I’ve been travelling the world, and doing big gigs abroad. It’s been non-stop – Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, South Africa – and I’ve been in and out doing some recording. So it’s great to actually come back to the UK and still have that kind of support over here.”

As to what we can expect from the new tour, Shayne wasn’t giving too much away.

“It’s going to be exciting, because there’s a lot of different things in there, and a lot of things which people haven’t actually seen me do. I want to give them a taste of what could be coming from the new album. Not necessarily any of the new songs, but basically something new that I could be doing.”

A new style, a new approach – but the same old songs? Colour me baffled.

“It just depends on how I feel. Do I want to give something new on the tour, or do I want to wait until the time is right? So I think I’m going to wait until the time is right, and let everybody hear something after the tour.”

As for that mysterious forthcoming album, you might need to prepare for some surprises.

“The first album was mainly ballads, so it’s a completely different style. It’s young, it’s fresher – it’s me, basically. I’m 23 years old; I can’t be serious like the first album was. I want to show people that I can enjoy myself as well.”

Remembering Shayne’s stand-out performance of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River on The X Factor, could we expect a touch of the Justins along the way?

“I don’t want to imitate Justin. I don’t want people to say: Oh, he’s trying to be like him. People know my voice, and they know I’m not going to try and sound like Justin. I’m trying to develop a new sound.”

So that would be a no, then. Did we hit a raw nerve?

The new material has been put together with the likes of Max Martin, who provided massive hits for Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys and Kelly Clarkson. But how much creative input did Shayne have?

“So much, because I was there while the songs were being written. I have been writing myself, but not for this album.”

Hmm. So were there any battles to be fought, in order to put his own point of view across?

“No, that’s the great thing about it. They know what page I’m on, they understood me, and I understood them. We got on so well. It came really easily, working with each other.”

Pop can, of course, be a fickle business. Most TV talent show winners quickly fade away, and there has been no new music from Shayne for several months. With a massive headline tour underway, and a new musical direction waiting to be unveiled, this feels like a huge statement of intent.

“I want longevity. I’m here for the right reasons – because I want to be singing for the rest of my life. I want to be performing to people for as long as possible – that’s why I’m here, to show people that I am going to stay around.”

How did he cope with the immediate aftermath of winning the show? That kind of blanket media coverage can’t be sustained for very long, Was it difficult to adjust after that first period of madness?

“No, because you know that’s going to happen. You’re coming from the biggest talent show in the country. To maintain it, you just have to wait and see. It doesn’t bother me if things die down a little over here, because I’m known around the world. I’ve got the record company believing in me over there, so I know I’m OK.”

So far, so predictable. So come on, Shayne: loosen up a little, and tell us what’s on your iPod right now.

“You know what? Everything. So many different styles, it’s untrue.”

Long pause. Oh dear, he wasn’t expecting this one…

“Keane, I love Keane. Coldplay. Just… everything.”

OK, let’s try a different angle. Take That or Robbie Williams: whose album would Shayne pick?

“I haven’t actually heard them, to be honest.”

Ah well, never mind. At least Shayne has kept up with the recent series of the show which made his name; he has met Ray and Leona, and wishes them every success.

If the new album is sufficiently fresh and different, then perhaps we’ll all stop thinking of Shayne Ward as the winner of a talent show, and start taking him seriously as a major league artist. However, a few more flashes of genuine, unspun personality wouldn’t do him any harm, either.

Lady Sovereign – Public Warning

Posted in album reviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on February 4, 2007

Hands up, who remembers “grime”, the critically acclaimed new wave of British hip-hop which spawned a generation of stars such as Dizzee Rascal and, er, Dizzee Rascal? Although Lady Sovereign originates from the same scene, 2006 saw her achieve a major commercial breakthrough in the USA, while remaining largely unappreciated over here.

Such Stateside success is all the more surprising when you consider the sheer Englishness of Lady Sov’s lyrics – which she spits out at breakneck speed, like a blend of Vicky Pollard and Betty Boo on helium. You have to wonder what American audiences make of references to Lambrini, Maccy D’s, the Vicar of Dibley, “Katie Price’s boobs” and “the ginge from Girls Aloud”. It must all seem very exotic.

Despite hanging out with Jay-Z and roping in Missy Elliott for a guest appearance, Sov remains the gobby, cheeky North London kid with the razor-sharp tongue and streetwise attitude, who’ll give you the finger if you call her a chav. This is light-hearted, knockabout stuff, with an almost cartoon-like humour and energy, which will irritate some and delight others.

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