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Throwing up into a thimble
on 13 October 2003
Thank god this didn't sell. Though logically it certainly should have done: hot on the heels of peak-fame Alanis Morrisette, Burning Dorothy hammers contemporary fashions of nauseating Girl Power, hairball delivery and (cringe!) false-American accents. Had this formula (and from the Alanis-lite chick rock of opening track, Sugar, there is no doubt that there was some marketing formula behind this) been successful Britain's most potent songwriter may have ploughed the same familiar furrow towards commercial gold at the expense of some of the most inspiring British music of the last decade.
Those familiar only with Gilmore's later works doubtless wonder where the lazy Alanis Morrisette comparissons that dog her current output come from. Look no further - I've already mentioned Morrisette twice in this review, and the fact is you just can't get away from it. Curiously absent is that distinctly English accent, so often the straight counterpoint to Thea's better lyrics, in its place is a thoroughly embarrassing American drawl on over half the tracks. At 18 she can be forgiven, but Gilmore's lyrical content lacks the polish of later works and, predictably enough, deal invairiably with sex, men, middle-class rebellion and (cringe! cringe!) being 'alternative'. 'Avalanche' it ain't. Gilmore is left with so much to say, but neither the means nor the maturity to truly say it yet, and the whole record bears an unusual likeness to one throwing up into a thimble.
Still, discard some pretty substantial flaws and you're left with a pretty decent debut. The tunes are there alright, from the rollicking Not So Clever Now to the genuinely touching Into the Blue. Pontiac To Home Girl is an atmospheric anti-love song to rival anything in Gilmore's later canon, sounding like a precursor to the intense production of 'The Resurrection Men' from The Lipstick Conspiracies and the seminal title track from this year's Avalanche album. The brash, playful Bad Idea sounds like a Rules For Jokers outtake and is, along with Pontiac..., the first signs of the extraordinary and original lyricist Gilmore would become by her early-twenties.
In 2003, 5 years and as many albums following her debut, Thea Gilmore is the most challenging, engaging and potent songwriter in Britain, if not the world. On this evidence, it could have all been very different. This is the sound of obvious talent (just listen to Pontiac...) perillously close to the jaws of a mainstream hungry for a new Alanis Morrisette. The mainstream has plenty of those now, and the rest of us have Thea Gilmore. Thank god, indeed.