Amy MacDonald - This is the Life
For all the hype about her youth, 19 year old MacDonald's debut, on some levels, makes its creator sound old before her time. Not only does the muscular vibrato of what is actually a classic folk singer's voice sound as if it's owned by someone who's considerably older, her world view, on this evidence, is similarly mature and sober - often at the riak of being a little dull. Opener 'Mr Rock 'n' Roll', you will know and, as a semi-celtic piece of acoustic pop, it keeps the radio bearable enough for three minutes. The rampant title track is a marvellous; the vocal melody on the chorus, it has to be said, sounds like Las Ketchup. That aside, its skittering folk-rock punch is the best thing here. Other high spots are largely melodic in that the likes of 'Youth of Today', 'LA' and 'Footballer's Wife', all carrying masive hooks, have stayed with me after just a few listens. Lyrically is maybe where it doesn't fully engage. The titles give clear indication of MacDonald's concerns but there's a certain hubris apparent in her swipes at off-the-rails pop stars, scheming politicians and, hey, footballers' wives. In fact, both her seriousness (as opposed to a wittier and more offhand approach) and her youth (no emotional open heart surgery here - yet) give this record an oddly studious feel. With age, no doubt, will come range. Musically the album follows the single; acoustic rocking for the most part, the odd gear change into balladry. It's okay but smacks at times of 'Generic Folk-rock Lite'; a little ramshackle thrown into the mix is highly recommended.
So, let's not be unfairly critical and let's not patronise her youth. Sure, a friend who asked me recently if there was "anything like KT Tunstall out" will be happy enough with my review copy. Those of you seeking a little more grain and a little more art from their singer-songwriters are pointed to recent releases by Feist and Catherine Feeny, both examples of albums where folk, soul and craft dizzyingly meet. I do hesitate to be quite so reasonable but 'This is the Life' is an intelligent, likeable introduction and an achievement of which MacDonald should be proud. But she offers little yet in the way of challenges.