Kristin Hersh - Learn To Sing Like A Star
Former Throwing Muse Kristin Hersh has been around a bit (I'm sure she won't mind me saying). Twenty years and fifteen albums into a career which has seen her front a seminal Alt-Rock band and scream "shut the fuck up" whilst steering the good ship 50 Foot Wave on its course, she's also released a series of solo albums. All three projects have differed in sound and presentation and her 7th studio effort is one of her more laid-back efforts. Learn To Sing Like A Star maybe the title of the record but there's no likelihood of her appearing on Pop Idol just yet, that husky howl of a voice is still there and the music still decidedly off-kilter if pandering more to the mainstream this time round.
Where this album disappoints is in its lack of any real vision. The songs are all pretty similar and don't really sound any different from other alt-rock front women, which is rather worrying. This has plenty in common with Tanya Donnelly's recent slump in form, it all sounds rather safe. "Peggy Lane" could have been written by any female singer-songwriter in the past 40 years whilst "Vertigo" is a simple folk song that doesn't really go anywhere and recent single "In Shock" is so shockingly (sorry) alt-rock by numbers that I'm amazed that it was the lead single from this album.
There are a couple of highlights though that drags this out of the mire. "Sugarbaby" sounds impossibly like acoustic grunge, as if it was recorded in a dark, damp basement, the guitars all dirty and fuzzed up and racing through the chorus with Hersh's husky drawl just off centre. "Wild Vanilla" follows in a similar vein with its acoustic rock approach augmented by a whispy string section. The closing track is also a real gem and the album highlight. "The Thin Man" is a haunting ballad with brooding piano and strings with that voice sounding sinister with its throaty growl, all infused with sporadic guitars dusted in feedback.
A patchy return then, but one that still hints at past glories and suggests that she's still got the talent; it just needs a little more direction and a sense of adventure.