A Fine Frenzy - One Cell in the Sea
‘One Cell in the Sea’, the debut from A Fine Frenzy, is not a record with much chance of troubling the heart rate or blood pressure of anyone who likes their singer-songwriters served with a decent helping of guile and wit. Alison Sudol’s debut album sounds pale, wan and starched. Built from not much more than gentle percussion and tinkly keyboards, this is a meek and modest affair. Over the course of its 14 songs – and, yes, with little or no sonic variation, it does f***ing go on – you wait, hoping that maybe you’ve missed the point. That its hushed washes and minimal programming is actually the whole damn point, that it’s actually a smarter statement than the lack of obvious hooks and passion initially might suggest. But no. Oh no.
Ultimately, no amount of studio fiddling can transform weak song-writing. As much as it pains (almost) to take the hatchet to what could well be the culmination of years of work, ‘One Cell in the Sea’, from its overworked title, to its bloodless lyrics, all the way through to its creator’s generic breathy vocals, simply isn’t even intended to thrill. It’s music for furniture, for food; music you could mix with white emulsion and sell to Habitat. Sudol’s world view extends not a great deal further than un-involving pondering about ex, or possible, lovers (‘You Picked Me’, ‘Almost Lover’ – the latter uncomfortably sounds like James Blunt.) Beyond that, it’s pretty wispy. ‘Think of You’ does the old ‘You’ve got a family now but I still miss you’ malarkey. There are multiple examples of rhyming dictionary over-reliance. People will buy this after hearing ‘Almost Lover’ on the Radio 2 but they’ll be wrong. If this kind of thing is your bag, then give up your hard-earned to those who deserve it : Nicole Atkins with her crazy ambition and music hall soul, Kathleen Edwards who delivers sweet country rock with balls and brains; or just buy Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Surfacing’, the irresistible modern template for all of this bloody girly hand-wringing. In fact, anyone who buys this and doesn’t already have it wants their bumps feeling.
Come on ! Is it really the case that just because the record labels decided that 2008 was the year in which they’d let women have a go again, that anyone with a pretty face and a pretty voice got guaranteed an audience ? With all the irony in the world applied, A Fine Frenzy is a misnomer of some magnitude. This is a joke, right ? Right ?