Eliza Carthy - Angels And Cigarettes
Eliza Carthy has, for quite some years, been seen as the great hope of British folk music but with her subtle dance and rock influences, nose ring and blue hair, she's a long way from the knitted pullovers and real ale of those the public would consider her peers. Yet, despite her obvious nods to a more modern/experimental sound, Angels And Cigarettes shows that Eliza Carthy, for the time being at least, is happy to hold on to her folk roots and develop, from her mixing of styles and influences, a wholly individual sound.
Beginning with Whispers Of Summer, Eliza Carthy's own playing of the violin sits amongst light dance rhythms, acoustic guitars and the ebb and flow of synthesisers, giving a fair indication of the subsequent flavour of the album. Indeed, what soon becomes apparent is that despite the distance between Whispers Of Summer and traditional folk, it is likely to be the most folky song on the album with subsequent songs pushing the guitars down in the mix to let the light rhythms, synthesisers and Carthy's own voice dominate the album. The third track, Beautiful Girl, is the best example of this with traditional instruments being largely absent and replaced by pulsing keyboards and drum loops.
Throughout Angels And Cigarettes, Carthy experiments with arrangements such that each song is carefully matched to the instruments most sympathetic to the arrangements. So, in The Company Of Men, which opens with Carthy confessing to performing blow jobs on a boyfriend just to hold to a relationship for at least one more night, her violin playing is suitably slow and mournful, as it also is on Poor Little Me in which she sings in a frank and honest manner about an abortion. Then again, Train Song and Fuse stay grittily closer to the angels and cigarettes of the album's title, being a mix of extraordinary lust amongst everyday events.
Carthy even manages, towards the end of the album, to take the dull and earnest rock of Paul Weller's Wild Wood and, through her lightness of touch, entirely transforms the song into a gently autumnal urban folk song.
Lyrically, there are a few consistent themes throughout the album, notably Eliza Carthy's, or her characters's, apparent lack of confidence. From Whispers Of Summer to Fuse and even within the CD booklet, Carthy aims barbed comments at those she either considers more beautiful or more intelligent than she. When pitched against the occasional use of lyrics that strike out at ex-partners, one can't help but wonder if Carthy has been stung by boyfriends who turned their back on her all too quickly. Yet the overall effect is never uncomfortable with Carthy's lyrics welcomed for being as honest as she is and despite a little naivety, the openness of her words work well against the space in her music to produce an album that succeeds against the fake plasticity of pop.
Eliza Carthy is a unique artist and with each album, she brings ever more sounds into her mix of traditional folk and modern rock with an impressive ability to write simple but effective songs. Providing she can cope with her bruised ego, Eliza Carthy will continue her trend of improving with each release and one day, she may yet eclipse the recording career of both her parents.