Brothers On The Slide
[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]
THE SELF-TITLED debut from Martha Wainwright (Drowned In Sound)** and Natalie Imbruglia's latest album, Counting Down The Days (Brightside)*, have more in common than either singer might like to acknowledge. Wainwright is the offspring of folk-music aristocracy, Imbruglia a graduate from an Australian soap opera; and it's hard to shake the suspicion that neither would receive quite the attention they do, otherwise.
In Wainwright's case, as with any solipsistic singer-songwriter, enjoyment of her music hinges on whether you find her as fascinating as she does herself. I find her mildly intriguing, in small doses. There are times when her swooping delivery and acid-drop lyrics touch a nerve, and times when they get on several.
Imbruglia, happily, no longer sounds like Alanis Morissette (if only Morrisette would follow suit.) She now seems to be making a dainty fist of impersonating Dido, although with more discretion and aplomb than many. Counting Down possesses sufficient pastel poise to be stocked in Habitat. One of these records is intended as art, the other functions as wallpaper. Without close attention, you could easily confuse them. But while Wainwright's at least partly repays careful listening, that's the worst thing you could do with Imbruglia's.
As the growing fashionability of folk brings ever blander acts to the fore, it's bracing to hear so rum and rickety an album as King Creosote's Rocket D.I.Y. (Fence)***, which doesn't fall neatly into the folk category but collapses into it by default. Fife's Kenny Anderson makes music that is eccentric, domestic and peculiarly Scottish, in the way that Bill Forsyth's movies once were - winsome, but sardonic with it.
It's a familiar scenario: an R&B scene, dominated by the commercial and creative clout of America, in which British acts struggle to find a place and a distinctive voice. Brothers On The Slide: The Story Of UK Funk (Sanctuary)*** harks back thirty years, and the parallels are unmissable. There are those who, at least briefly, match the Americans at their own game (Cymande, The Equals); those whose mimicry reveals their limitations (Jabba, Kokoma); and yet others who by accident or design come up with something identifiably their own (Carol Grimes, Linda Lewis).
Compiler Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick, of Nineties rare groove revivalists Incognito, has perhaps cheated a little by including British based as well as British-bred acts. His selection veers towards the sweatier, jam-based tracks that influenced his own band and its Talkin' Loud/Acid jazz peers. But he's unearthed some real treasure - the title track, tight enough to bounce coins off; Doris Troy's sleek 60s Detroit/70s Philly crossover pastiche Stretchin' Out; Uphill Piece Of Mind, Grimes's gritty belter; and the silky malevolence of Labi Siffre's The Vulture.
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