on 17 January 2001
Who pays any attention to official reviews anyway?
If you were asked to list your "Top 20 Albums Ever" there would be many different selections but some albums achieve cult status; the kind of albums you reach for again, even though you've played them a hundred times before. I'm thinking of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, or Paul Simon's Gracelands, to name but two. In my view Tropical Brainstorm is another one of those and it belongs in everybody's record collection.
Kirsty's lyrics are clever and funny, her melodies are well-crafted, and her band really rocks! I was lucky enough to get to one of her Tropical Brainstorm concerts, and it proved what a great live performer she was, as well as an accomplished studio artist.
After yeas of producing some very fine songs which nevertheless failed to get much air play Kirsty was just getting into top gear as a songsmith, and I'm sure would have released much more excellent material, possibly even better than this. But as a farewell album, this is truly going out on a high note.
Let's celebrate the life of a fine musician. Turn up the volume and dance!
on 21 February 2005
Sadly Kirsty is no longer with us so this album was to become her swansong . Luckily it's absolutely magnificent. It's an album of some of Kirsty's strongest songs ever. The flavour is South American obviously influenced from her time living there. Don't be put off by that, try it, it's not that scary.
In terms of quality of songwriting, it's on a par with the songs on career best album 'Kite' but as I say the flavour of the songs is completely different. As ever Kirsty's pop sensibilities never leave her and her humour is prevalent throughout most of these songs , 'In These Shoes?' and 'England 2 Columbia 0' particularly.
Kirsty is sorely missed and I would have loved to have heard the follow up to this album. So much talent.
It you've only ever bought and loved the compilation 'Galore', go get this, you'll love it too.
on 3 February 2004
A musician and songwriter as talented and versatile as Kirsty was too often discussed in relation to other people, as Ewan MacColl's daughter, producer Steve Lillywhite's ex-wife, as backing vocalist to an a-list of Brit stars including Morrissey, the Happy Mondays and Alison Moyet, even as the girl who put the album tracks in order on U2's the Joshua Tree. It's about time she was recognised in her own right for the fine legacy of solo work she left behind her. While few longstanding Kirsty fans will prefer Tropical Brainstorm to her career-defining Kite, it's the work of a mature artist developing and redefining her sound. Not everyone will love the Cuban flavour - it can on a couple of occasions sound mannered - but who could fail to laugh at the wit of a track like In These Shoes? I last saw Kirsty performing England 2, Columbia 0 on Later... a few months before her death - a superb tale of wronged love and wounded pride. The other stand out is Treachery, a very English take on the stalking fan that could almost be a riposte to Eminem's Stan - and a fitting epitaph to an unconventional talent taken away years too early.
on 19 May 2000
I've enjoyed singles by Kirsty over the years but never been moved to buy an album. Something about "In These Shoes?" gave me a good feeling about buying Tropical Brainstorm and I acted on the impulse (after reading the above reviews, I might add). I have barely stopped listening to it since. Despite the hesitancy of the weak opening track, events pick up immediately with "In These Shoes?" then progress through two irresistable slices of pop in "Treachery" and "Here Comes That Man Again" (by no means the poorest song on the album). "AutumngirlSoup" is a more serious ballad, down to earth lyrics about the downtrodden aspects of failed love affairs. Then come five songs in a row that simply dazzle: "Celestine" is, in my opinion, Kirty's finest moment to date and nobody could have done it better. "England 2 Columbia 0" is irresistable and hilarious. "Nos Esperando" flows straight into "Alegria": a shimmering fiesta of brazillian beats that'll have your hips swaying, and which itself flows stright into "Us Amazonians", another strong pop song with wry lyrics. "Wrong Again" seems incongruous and stands out as the least appealing track on the album, being a faltering paen to the way it feels to have been double-crossed in love. The lyrics seem corny and uninspired and the vocal performance lacks conviction. "Designer Life" gets things back on track, and "Head" finishes off the album on a slower note, leaving the listener reaching for the 'repeat' button to take it all back to track 1 again. Kirsty will never make a stronger album than this. Her wit and sense of melody are unique in the world of pop, and it's a shame she is so persistantly and consistently overlooked. God knows what America makes of her.
on 27 March 2000
In a recent radio interview, Kirsty Maccoll said her new album "Tropical Brainstorms" was an attempt to produce something more "uplifting" in comparison to her previous two solo works. For people like me, who consider her first album "Kite" to be her finest to date, this is something of a relief after two albums which barely scratch the surface of her considerable writing and singing talents. Happily the attempt has proved successful, and Tropical Brainstorms proves that she can still cut it.
The musical theme of the album is unashamedly Latin but not overtly so in a Ricky Martin kind of way, drawing on her heavy Brazilian and Cuban influences, but done from her unique perspective. The lyrics are, with few exceptions (Mambo de la luna springs to mind here) outstanding, being sharp, witty and thought provoking simultaneously - no mean feat. Kirsty Maccoll is right up there with the best when it comes to writing lyrics which are accessible. Most of the songs are written in the first person, some autobiographical, some not, dealing with the nitty gritty of relationships that are overlooked by lesser songwriters. She writes about life in a way that everyone can relate to - you'll recognise yourself in there somewhere!
The album gets off to a bit of a false start with the competent but uninspiring "Mambo de la luna", followed by "In these shoes" which never really gets started musically, but has the saving grace of a mildly amusing story.
The album really kicks off with "Treachery", which has a powerful vocal performance worthy of anything on "Kite". The subject deals with a former fan of hers who has forsaken her for other artistes "I'm stalking a fan / he's gone to the record store / to buy a CD / by some other girl, not me" - she's not pleased about this - a message to all of us who wondered what happened to her after "Kite" perhaps. The song has an outstanding melody, using Kirsty's vocal range beautifully.
"Here comes that man again" tells of a woman who spends her nights on the internet conversing with "an anonymous dutchman", giving a fairly frank and graphic description of what goes on. "Autumngirlsoup" has a surreal, dreamy quality to it, superbly sung high, in a style unlike anything else she has done before or since.
"Celestine" is Kirsty's alter ego, a "wild and wicked slut" - good lyrics, and a catchy melody. "England 2 Columbia 0" is about a date with a man who turns out to be married with children. The lyrics are reminiscent of "There's a guy works down the chip shop" in their stark power and black humour "Ok so I didn't mention my kids / I thought I'd wait a bit / but I am free and single / and he's a lying git".
"Us Amazonians" is the most anthemic piece on the album, big and loud and powerful in the same way that "Freeworld" was on "Kite". One of the highpoints on the album - play it loud. "Head" is the nearest the album comes to a ballad, and is another beautifully crafted song.
In summary this is an exceptional album, and one that you will play over and over. The first track "Mambo" and the single "In these shoes?" seem to be getting the radio airplay, but they are not really representative of the album as a whole, which is a shame, because this is one of the albums you will still be listening to in 10 years.
on 21 February 2002
I don't know what sort of miserable uptight person your 'official reviewer' is, but boy he/she is obviously tone deaf. This is a gloriously happy piece of music composed and arranged by someone who had found their place in the world. 'Us Amazonians' and 'England 2 Colombia 0' are right up there with the best dance music, and I mean dance. This is the first time I have bought Kirsty's music and was inspired to buy after hearing 'In These Shoes'. Whenever I'm down or after a hard day's slog, this is the music I play to lift my spirits. What a loss, but what a great epitaph.
on 4 October 2006
When a well established British pop singer, producer and writer releases an album, mixing lyricaly strong songs with pop rhymes rumba, bossa nova, and salsa to name a few you know it is going to be interesting. Add all that to her pedigree, daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl famous for his working class movement. And just the fact that this album tropical brain storm released in march 2000, turned out to be MacColls answer to Janis Joplins Pearl for just nine months later she was tragically killed in front of her children in a boating accident Mexico in Dec 2000.
You cant compare MacColl's last album Titanic days to this as it sounds like another artist. MacColl in her last years grew to love and to become inspired by Latin American music.
Stand out tracks are plenty on this album, for example the commercially successful, in these shoes which has since featured on films adverts and the TV comedy serious bbc2 Catherine tate show every body must know this song that she co wrote.
The opening track Mambo De La Luna left me scratching my head, was this woman really from Croydon. The album boasts some MacColls most clever, mature lyrics Autumngirlsoup is a world away from there's a guy works down the chip shop swears he is elvis ,but it is just as clever and touching lyrically and musically when you play autumngirlsoup read the lyrics from the inlay card, it is so heart wrenchingly brilliant. Other stand out tracks are England 2 Colombia 0, Treachery, and Celestine. This album is a must for anybody serious about harmony, lyrics and Britain's very own the late great Kirsty Maccoll.
on 13 November 2000
Having got my hands on a promo copy of In These Shoes before the album was released, I had an idea what to expect. I wasn't wild about the single at that stage, being distinctly unimpressed by all the other "Latin" artists flooding the music scene, but I went ahead and bought the album anyway - and am I glad I did! A superb piece of work which, were it not for the protests of my partner, would be constantly playing both at home and in the car. Joyous and sublime, my one piece of advice would be - turn it up! I don't mean earth-shattering volume, but crank it up a bit and you hear all sorts of layers of sound lost at lower volume. I love the contrasts between all-out classic belters like Treachery and Us Amazonians and the slower tracks such as Autumngirlsoup and Wrong Again. Not a dud track to be found. Listen carefully to the lyrics for Autumngirlsoup to hear why Kirsty is one of our best singer/songwriters, and why this is probably my favourite track. Please miss, I want some more!
on 10 July 2001
i read an article about this Cd and didnt have a clue who Kristy was, but iwas intrigued. i havent stopped listening to it for three weeks!!! it is the most amazing record i have heard since "Rumours" by Fleetwood Mac and "Private Dancer" by Tina Turner. it is truly a great record all around....not a bad song in the bunch. the depth and humor she writes with is unmatched in todays "pop world." this is one of the very few times i have ran out and bought copies for all my friends. what a crying shame she is no longer with us.
on 29 March 2000
The very image of Kirsty MacColl doing the limbo is bizarre. Not sure why that should be - it's just that she is so very English. Yet here she is, with an album stuffed full of rhumbas, merengues, salsas and guacamoles. (Hey, what do I know - I'm very English too.)
For the most part, it works surprisingly well. I adore "Celestine" - a song about her sexier alter ego; "In These Shoes" - brutally witty and camp; and "England 2 Colombia 0".
However, the cod-Latin can feel a little incongruous and I have to wonder if some songs wouldn't have been better with a more traditional pop beat.
The high-point of the album is the heartbreaking "Wrong Again" - a song about the end of a relationship. Tellingly, the Latin influences are subdued.
The low point is "Here Comes That Man Again" - a song about cybersex. Perhaps I don't want to think about Kirsty downloading dodgy pictures and moaning down a modem. Just when I thought it was safe to go back on NetMeeting...
The songs work best in a live setting. I saw her recently at the Jazz Cafe and at Dingwalls, and she and the band were just brilliant. She has marvellous stage presence and rapport: "Sorry it's so packed in here tonight," she said, "I tried to get the Millennium Dome. But the government didn't want it full of dope-smoking homosexuals. Still, what can you do, that's my audience - dope-smoking homosexuals." [Big cheer]