I love it when artists take risks & leave the comfort zone they've worked so hard to establish. It can backfire big time but they've exposed sides to their identity which they've never done in the past. This journey can be perilous but the results are always well-worth it. Especially in pop. For sure, this might alienate that loyal fanbase but reknewel is vital for any artist. So, when I discovered Katie Melua was working with William Orbit I was stunned and intrigued! Apropos of nothing this emerged as one of the albums I was most exciting in hearing. While I do like Katie Melua, I can't confess to adore her previous work. However this album is a complete turnaround. For sure, there are ballads in there but gone is the twee Katie Melua of the past replaced with something more haunting & epic. If you liked the works of Siobhan, Massive Attack, Craig Armstrong, Kate Bush, William Orbit, Kylie Minogue (Impossible Princess), Beth Orton and Butch Vig you'll adore this album.
A track about bondage perhaps? I dunno. One first thinks this is just Katie Melua of old but don't write this ballad off immediately. Its incredibly haunting. It has an essence of Jonny Cash meets Bluegrass Dolly Parton at her darkest moments. Hauntingly amazing. 4/5
Absolutely amazing. They dont make songs like this that often. It demands bowing down to you. It is epic and majestic. The hairs on the back of ones neck spring to attention when this comes on. And we must mention the fact that it emerges into a big pop record half-way through making it absolutely absolutely amazing. An additional point to mention, is the strength and power of Katie's voice on The Flood. You dont notice it at first. But play the album and the voice floods the house. It is immense. She reveals that you dont have to trill or run when showing off your lungs. You can simply hold a simple clear note and sing a song. Pure, clean and simple. 5/5
A Happy Place (Katie Melua/Guy Chambers)
I can't compare any song in existence to A Happy Place. Its simply unusual. Delicately electronic this song is yet another beautiful slice of pop. 4/5
Key lyrics: Army of the city workers, secretaries, lawyers, brokers. Heading for a London station. Heading for a quick salvation.
Ooooooh, this song takes you right to the Burlesque clubs of Berlin. Ute Lemper would scream to have this track on her album. The strings are delicious too. This is exactly the type of song Paloma Faith's amazing album needed to round of that glorious epic debut of hers. 4/5
A return to old Katie. This will please her old fans and in doing so interupts the brilliant creative creative energy on the rest of the album. Sounds a bit like an advert for some mobile company. 1/5
Key lyrics: The Sky is full of Red Balloons.
Tiny Alien (Katie Melua/Guy Chambers)
God, I have no idea what this is about. Maybe, she's put herself in the shoes of Ripley in Alien? I dunno. Its plain kooky. I love it as its cute as hell. Many a popstar has recently celebrated the narrative of robots. This is it a bit like that. 4/5
Key Lyrics: Who are you my tiny alien? We are just skin and bones?
This is a ballad but its very strong. It would seem Katie is heavely influenced by those gorgeous sweeping melodies you'd hear on those classic bluegrass albums of the past. 3/5
Key Lyrics: I have no fear of heights/No fear of the deep blue see/Although it could drown Me
The One I Love Is Gone (Bill Monroe)
Yes, its that Bill Monroe. Katie is pure chilling her. You can imagine her singing this at the end of the night at some dangerous bar in the middle of nowhere. I watched Judi Dench on the Southbank show the other night. She performed and Stephen Sondheim said despite the set being bare, Judi sung the song (Send in the clowns) so well you had no reason for set, costumes and other actors. Nor script. Such was the power of Judi's ability to own the song and convey its narrative. So my point? Katie does exactly the same here. She doesn't drift through this epic bluegrass track, but it covers like the tears run through her veins. We feel her heart and hurt. An amazing cover. 5/5
Key lyrics: So I'll sigh, I'll cry. I'll even wanna die. For the One I Love Is Gone.
The lyrics are initially a bit dodgy but Katie really needs to go down the route of music where beat is taken up a notch. Her voice seriously comes to life when the music picks up the pace. Again, you wont hear another pop song out there like this. Its brave, different and unique. This is when Katie (and this album) really comes into its own. 5/5
Key lyric: struck down by the plague of love/sweet poison running through my blood/and I can't bear not knowing if you even care.
Folk disco. It works though. It shouldnt. You wont get another track like this on a pop record anytime soon. Its weird. Just when you think its missed its target, the horns kick-in and it all makes sense. 3/5
Key lyrics: This constant beat that you cannot hear cause it hasn't changed for a thousand years.
Woah, Katie emerges as a hybrid between Annie Lennox and Kate Bush. Indeed, didnt Annie Lennox have a song of the same title on her 3rd album Bare? Yes, I think she did. Ah, if you lived by the "didnt some other person do it first?" rule you'd never leave your house. The middle of the song is its weakest but if you keep with it, it pays off. I really respect how possibly tempting it was to "Lady GaGa" this album but they've refrained from doing so earning my instant love. This is one of the highlights of the album. My only bite with the song is that Katie states shes twisted but you dont get the sense of that at all. Where is her neurosis? Where is her psychosis? You kinda want this track to be emerge into a snarling descent into madness like Kylie's Limbo did on her glorious Impossible Princess album. Twisted is a great track but just holds short on giving you the punch you'd expect. 5/5
Key Lyrics: I'm twisted, just twisted
One might instantly write this off as a boring ballad but its fucking haunting. I love it. Are the lyrics about exibitionism? About stalking? About ethics? About murder? Listen and deconstruct. 5/5)
Key lyrics: Who is in that house? I opened the door to see. Who is up the stairs. I'm walking up foolishly.
Katie has quite clearly left her comfort zone and I truly respect that. Not one song comes close to The Flood. But the future is very bright for Katie if she continues to experiment in this way. The Flood is amazing and it would always be rather hard to come close to it. The rest of album spirals in-between being incredibly amazing and running back to how things were done in the past.
Saying that though, only roughly 3 songs stand out as "less good than the others". Indeed if i was to compare this to any other album out there it would be Kylie Minogue's great Impossible Princess from 1997 with the difference being Minogue always kept up the pressure with anthemic songs like Too Far and Limbo. The House just lacks a Too Far/Limbo is all. What will Katie do next? I'd argue she should explore the more experimental routes displayed on The House. She has clearly proven herself. She's laid down the gauntlet for the likes of other similar artists to get out of that comfort zone and mess things up a tad. Personally I find that this album has an immense texture of soul and has, somewhat, usurped the impending Robyn album. Only because I think what Melua, William Orbit, Guy Chambers and Rick Nowels have done is create a sense that your walking into a movie. Its an incredibly thematic affair that refuses to be placed in any sense of genre and category. Such albums few and rare these days. And, must be celebrated. 5/5