Rebecca Jade – The Distaff Muse
The delightful is carrying two things right now. One is her immense songwriting talent and the other is a baby. Now, I don’t know an awful lot about babies (they’re small and intermittently cute, terrifying and amazing) but I do know a good songwriter when I hear one so that is what I am going to write about. The Distaff Muse is the debut long player from the Welsh songstress and her band of merry men and it truly is a thing of beauty. Opening track What Happens Next? starts off as a frail, delicate slip of a song before emerging in to the world as a sashaying, lilting Indie stomper swathed in harmonies, distortion and a Flaming Lips-esque sense of the grandiose. Not bad for a hello. Echo Strikes Out Alone is a more typical indie tune and has me thinking of teenage one-non-hit wonders that I bought from local record shops on 7 inch vinyl (Milk, Linoleum, Frente). But it’s on 3rd track, Brother, that the soul of this album starts to shine through. A tale of sibling love covered in a thick layer of that special kind of Sunday morning home sickness that city dwellers who have grown up in the country get. For a first album, The Distaff Muse is incredibly brave in the honesty and fragility that it displays; it’s real heart on the sleeve stuff.
Hospital Corners is a more up tempo ditty that explores the notion of ‘opposites attract’ better than Paula Abdul and that cartoon cat ever did and leaves you in a more comfortable place thinking you know what’s going on with this record. And then You Do happens. The first half of You Do sounds like the Edge noodling away under a pile of sustain and delay in front of a soggy crowd at Red Rocks back when U2 didn’t own Ireland. Now, for me, this is no bad thing but coming smack in the middle of what I would firmly call an Indie record, it is a real slap across the chops. The second half of the song is a bittersweet strum along that could have been recorded on a wet afternoon in Wales and about as far from the atmosphere of the song’s openings as possible. As if to compound the oddness that this record has now descended in to, Rebecca Jade calls a song Entirely Instrumental and then goes and puts lyrics to it – Instru-mental if you ask me!
Throughout all the oddness (note, NOT kookiness) though, this record is wondrous thing and something that can be enjoyed and studied at the same time. I don’t like to pick a favourite song out as I’m a traditionalist and believe albums should be devoured as one complete work, but if you’re scared by the challenge of this record then a good point to jump in would be Shaking My Heart (Where My Head Should’ve Been). It’s a romper stomper of a break-up song with a pounding piano refrain from Jeremy Radway, fuzzy guitars and a sense of anger mixed with fun that is infectious and ever so slightly Super Furry Animals-esque. The album concludes with the sexy and sassy Willow Walk which perfectly displays Rebecca Jade’s vocal style from Regina Spektor style operatic interludes, attitude laden shouty bits and delicately fragile moments that crescendo in to apocalyptic venomous outbursts. At one point I swear it could be PJ Harvey dueting with Nick Cave as the album stumbles and staggers to a drained and dishevelled climax. But it’s not. It’s Rebecca Jade and Bass man Andrew Pridding on vocal duties but the climax is just as satisfying.
This is one of the longer reviews I’ve done recently and I think that’s testament to the intricacy, complexity and substance that The Distaff Muse provides. We are not talking about a polished, immaculately produced work of art here but we are talking about the kind of album that can really inspire a person in to thinking a little differently or looking at the world in another way. I’m talking about the kind of album that you can sit and listen to, not as background music but as something to really get to grips with over a bottle of red wine. And considering all these ideas came from the heart, mind and soul of one woman I think that makes Rebecca Jade Jnr a very lucky little tyke indeed!
Download the album for a bargain £4 here
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