It looks like a shapeless stripy jumper on the album cover, but KT Tunstall's Tiger Suit is her protection against the world, a clawed insurance in the face of critical brickbats and the pressures of having to go out there and be a star. It's served her well. Three albums in, Tunstall appears undamaged, an ordinary girl you'd want to spend time with and an honest performer it's hard to dislike.
What sounds like faint praise is more charitably cast as recognition that Tunstall has settled into a familiar groove. Years of busking and almost wilful avoidance of the spotlight meant that by the time the Mercury-nominated Eye to the Telescope turned up in 2004, Tunstall was fully formed as an artist, equipped with an effects pedal and songs that sat just on the edgy side of AOR. Second album Drastic Fantastic barely tinkered with the formula, but suffered from a relatively short gestation.
So Tiger Suit stands at a crossroads, an ideal opportunity to take a few risks. This, according to KT, manifests itself in a dancier feel to the songs. It's true that producer Jim Abbiss – who put the laddish funk into Kasabian – brings a dusting of sequenced beats to the clattering, bolshy Uummannaq Song and the flirty Glamour Puss, but it's a toe in the water. More striking is the almost ravey building intensity of Difficulty: intriguing electro-rock that wouldn't sound out of place on U2's Zooropa, in a good way. Even so, these end up rare deviations from the KT template.
The sort of old-school, heavily rhythmic rock’n’roll that characterised earlier hits Suddenly I See and Hold On is still very much in evidence. Push That Knot Away is Bat for Lashes gone high-velocity blues; Golden Frames is sinister vampire bluegrass; and the brash Come On, Get In is standard tribal KT, hollering and stamping. It’s all no end of fun, without pushing any envelopes.
More surprising is (Still A) Weirdo, a quirky slice of Beatley clever-pop that recalls Elliott Smith – and the squeezy, dirty grind of Madame Trudeaux, where Tunstall manages to rhyme "repertoire" and "admire" in a terribly posh English accent. It shares a sexy charisma with Glamour Puss, and is just the ticket, respite from some of the more coasting material. A bit of "grrr" does Tiger Suit no harm.
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