on 28 May 2014
This is my first experience of Kate Tempest. I have heard a few of her songs (thanks Scroobius Pip!) but this is the first time I have heard her for more than 5 minutes in one go.
What an experience it proves to be.
I warn you - don't buy this and expect music: it's not about the music. It's about the spoken content of the songs. (I would use the word lyrical but singing is not what Kate Tempest seems to do). Yes, there is backing music to her words, but it's there to reflect the content and feeling of the song, and (one song asides) the music is mixed so it doesn't trample all over Kate's voice and tale. You can clearly hear what she's saying all the time.
This album tells the story of a few people and the places they exist in. Think of it as a short story with 12 chapters. It's a story of life, but not Kate's life, so she doesn't tell it from her perspective. There is little of Kate's feelings or emotions in here, the tales are told from the characters perspective.
The booklet (a large fold up sheet) that comes with it deserves reading separately from listening. If you only had the booklet you'd think it was just a story. I'm still figuring out who is whom and how they all relate to each other!
Long story short, don't buy this album and expect not to have to sit, listen and think about it. This is an album that demands you to sit, listen and pay attention.
Well done Kate, I hope you can bring us another CD of stories in the future, and not via You Tube because I can't play that in my car.
on 2 January 2015
Weaving a tale of love, violence, family ties and drugs, Kate Tempest's new album is a real work of art. The story told is relatively simple to understand and all of the characters have a wonderful set of flaws between them; making for a gritty, realistic and believable ride.
The story part in itself is a nice touch, it means you grow more close with the characters, particularly Becky, the main focus of the album. However it does prove annoying if you try and listen to the album on shuffle, and speaking from experience, I would not recommend!
It is not an album to be listened to while you're working, or doing anything, as a matter of fact. To experience it properly, you've got to be able to concentrate, hard. Hard enough to get underneath the soundtrack and appreciate the true beauty of the words.
In case of confusion later on, Becky is the main character of the story, Pete is her boyfriend, his brother and her lover is Harry and Harry's partner is Leon. There are plenty of others, but these are the main four.
Although the album is essentially a story, there are a few stand-alone tracks, from the fast, and probably the most 'pop-esque' song out of them all, 'The Beigeness', which is about seeing other people's problems, and being able to admit your own problems to other people, to the self-contained which doesn't seem to reach a conclusion, just going over the same points again and again, making 'Circles' a fitting name for it.
The story, however, definitely doesn't go round in circles, getting progressively darker and grittier. Beginning with the 'fun' nightclub setting of 'Marshall Law', poking fun at Tempest's generation -
'Shouting and screaming just to prove that they exist', which sets the scene for the rest of the album. and reaching a climax in 'The Heist' after the murder, and another climax in 'Happy End'.
'The Truth' is another stand-alone track, but it seems to nestle in nicely, dealing with a few social issues (as if there aren't enough dealt with already) and the story of 'Two' and 'One', maintaining an upbeat bass.
'Lonely Daze' introduces the character of Pete and brings back the character of Becky, and tells the story of them before they were together, and, of course, dealing with the idea of unemployment.
The next few songs build up a picture of their lives and building up to 'The Heist'
This is probably one of my personal favorites from the album, because, I think, of the unnatural ebb and flow created by the reprise:
'You gotta take it as it comes,
You gotta do what you gotta do,
Until you get it done.
You gotta know what you're in it for,
And don't stop 'til you know what you're livin' for.'
Which, on first read you might think is about personal happiness, following your dreams and suchlike. but after a murder, it changes the meaning a little bit...
Nevertheless, it does create the 'life goes on' attitudes of Harry and Leon.
The next songs deal with the aftermath of 'The Heist' and ends with 'Happy Ending', well, for Becky, Harry and Leon. Starting with Pete's surprise birthday party and ending with Becky and Harry running away together with Leon. The soundtrack, coming out loudly in between the verses, continues to move up a gear as the tensions grow until it fades away at the end, makes a nice finale to this gem of an album.
I think the real triumph of the album is the performance by Tempest. It is, as always, from the heart and flawless in its delivery; the words are so clear, which really is something for an album like this. Her different voices are brilliant, a personal favourite being the dealer, Joey, in 'The Heist', who sounds simultaneously terrifying and hilarious.
And even though it's nothing like seeing her live, if you turn it up loud enough you can almost imagine her right there with you.
Compared to previous albums, where it was more like pure, unadulterated spoken word, this time there's a real drive all the way through the album because of the pumping bass which gives it another dimension, and makes all the more interesting for us.
All in all, from what I've heard, the only way is up for Tempest, and I await her next album in anticipation.
more reviews here:
on 7 June 2014
Superficially this is like Mike Skinner/The Streets; half spoken/half sung, part song/part story, lyrics that speak of modern life not some mid-Atlantic fiction. Like "A Grand Don't Come For Free " it's difficult to imagine a song as a single, as each is a part of a connected whole and therefore this is not likely to go down well with the single-only, mp3-download culture.
The lyrics are more sophisticated and ambitious than Skinner's, but the music is a bit more formulaic and definitely a secondary consideration. Maybe that's not a bad thing; it's good to see lyrics to the fore.
200 years ago, putting poetry to music was the high point of art and although I don't suppose many fans of Schubert/Schumann (other than me) will be converted by this modern day rap song-cycle, rap fans will realise that poetry in music has been around for many years and in many forms and recognise this as a worthy addition.