Remember when you were totally pissed off when I didn’t review Deerhunter’s marvellous Monomania in 2013? Well, It’s looks like history is going to repeat itself because I am not reviewing the band’s latest release, Fading Frontier, either. Yes, again it’s a great indie rocker but there is more music around that deserves some attention right? Nadine Shah sophomore album, for example. So take a good look at the femme fatale artwork, count to ten or whatever and read on.
Nadine Shah, who is from Pakistani-Norwegian descent, grew up on the English North East coast. The restless, harsh landscape and especially the sad ghazals of her Pakistani father subconsciously influenced her own work. Her debut album for example, Love Your Dum And Mad (2013), addresses weighty themes surrounding mental health and suicide. Together with her deep, brooding voice the comparison with PJ Harvey is very easy to make. Nevertheless Shah’s musical preferences are much brighter. In an interview she said Scott Walker, a melodious jazz singer who sung about all kinds of odd subjects, is one of her biggest inspirations. Don’t expect sophomore album to be bright though. On Fast Food Shah’s autumny voice nests itself with no intention to leave you anytime soon.
Immediately after Fast Food’s start it’s clear that all 10 tracks on this album are of high production value. Combining acoustic and electric guitars with some delicate backing vocals here and there is an excellent choice to set the stage for Shah’s powerful voice. At first she seems to reckon with the PJ Harvey and Nick Cave comparison that has been haunting her since the Love Your Dum And Mad album. The cunning guitar play and dragging singing on ‘Fast Food’ and ‘Fool’ could just as easily be part of Harvey’s and/or Cave’s discography.
After this recognizable opening the album unfolds into an intense atmospheric blend of midnight loner pop and torchy, jazzy indie rock. Again there are references to be made here. The emptiness together with an endless introspective gaze on ‘Matador’, ‘Dividend’ (about a long-distance relationship) and ‘The Gin One’ reminds of Anna Calvi with a whiff of Timber Timbre’s film-noir setting. On the other hand Fast Food at times also breaths out an attractive Elysian Fields-like late night jazz scene. ‘Nothing Else To Do’ is a harmonic simple song which is build only around the words “And there was nothing else to do but fall in love” that eventually is infused with long toned horns.
The albums thematics still are very weighty. As said her debut record elaborated on issues surrounding mental health. It was written against the backdrop of the suicide of two of her close friends. Fast Food is even more personal and comes from her own experiences and her own troubled love life. For instance, ‘Stealing Cars’ is a song that’s about Shah dealing with panic attacks and how irrational thoughts can have an impact on your dreams. On a victorious manner Shah is facing her struggles head-on and sings: “I’m stealing cars in my dreams. That neither you or I can drive […] Masking humanity, here I’m looking for me. You’re my hide away. Take the covers from me, naked for all to see”.
Apart from all comparisons Nadine Shah’s second long-player is on its own a captivating piece of work. Fast Food is a tension building album about the complexities of heartbreak, forgiveness and all vulnerable imperfectness that lies in between. Comprehending Fast Food’s many layers could be time consuming. Shah’s remodels her thoughts into a neon-lit stuffy inner city in the late seventies. It’s a maze of trial and error, behind each corner lies acceptance, helplessness or pain. In the end however Shah isn’t afraid to explore her self-created maze taking listeners along with her.
Label: Apollo, 2015
- Fast Food (3:54)
- Fool (4:42)
- Matador (3:53)
- Divided (4:47)
- Nothing Else to Do (4:55)
- Stealing Cars (4:04)
- Washed Up (3:06)
- The Gin One (3:11)
- Big Hands (3:48)
- Living (4:43)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 201015