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on 10 August 2007
I first heard Thea on Ken Bruce's Radio 2 morning show when he played 'This Girl is Taking Bets' from 'Rules for Jokers', and it made me stop what I was doing and listen. After the track I did a websearch, saw she was touring, and travelled to see her at Oxford's old Zodiac venue. I've never been so impressed and subsequently sought out and bought all her CDs. Thea is something of an enigma; she ought to be massive but remains a cult hero, although her following is large and loyal. I've seen her on all her subsequent tours and got to talk to her at South Hill Park in Bracknell when she performed an acoustic set soon after her baby was born. She's both charming and approachable and not as 'sinister' as her various photographs seem to suggest. This, her debut album, contains material that not only impresses but suggests an insight and talent few can match. My all time favourite is 'Pontiac To A Home Girl', not a track she plays, sadly, at current gigs (I have asked her about this!). If you can get to see her, do. In the meantime, get this album and give it time.
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on 28 August 2003
Though Thea Gilmore must tire of references to her young age, never before has a debut album by a singer-songwriter still in their teens resulted in such a mature, eloquent masterpiece. While Burning Dorothy has a more pronounced indie-rock edge than her later work, the "English Alanis" clichés are the result of lazy, sloppy journalism. Venting her spleen with infinitely more depth, intelligence, wit and potency than Morrisette's angsty contrived shock-rock, this album explodes with musical, lyrical and emotional fireworks.
Bundling rock, folk, pop and indie into an intoxicating ball, Thea comes flying out of the start-gates with a pair of menacing songs, stuffed equally with vitriol and guitar hooks. This girl has fire in her belly and wastes no time getting down to business: "Well you can shut up now I'm talking/I am so sick of your one-liner conversation", she rants in "Sugar", apparently addressing an ex-lover, but equally likely to be aimed at the current Music Industry at large.
It is no mean threat. The album powers along on the knife-edge of Thea's acerbic world view, as she sticks two-fingers up at old boyfriends, society at large and anybody else who dares get in her way. But the anger is liberating, and as Nigel Stonier's crunching guitars spark and roar behind her, there is a joy in the strength Thea discovers.
Starting with the post-feminist Militia Sister, the latter-half of the album features more acoustic, folk-punk songs. Bad Idea is a brilliant prickly assertion of independence ("I can do cute with a bite, or angry with a personable side/but they're my only parts"), as the album reaches its an absolute pinnacle with Into The Blue, a haunting, panoramic tune of yearning and devotion.
Strangely (although actually in keeping with Thea's rejection of commercialism), the albums most accessible track is, in fact, physically the least accessible. The spritely and obscenely catchy One Last Fight is smuggled away as an uncredited, un-indexed hidden track. With in Byrdsian chiming guitar, breezy vocal and soaring chorus, the song is a hopeful farewell after the pain and anger elsewhere. Songs that are after an afterthought in Thea's world would be career-conerstones in virtually anyone elses.
Amid all the well-deserved critical praise lauded on her later work, and the fact it has been unavailable for so long, Burning Dorothy often gets criminally overlooked. (Even Thea seemed to have forgetten about it when compiling her recent set-lists!). But like Are You Experienced?, Can't Buy A Thrill or My Aim Is True, Burning Dorothy is an absolutely dazzling debut album. If there is any justice in the world, this album will one day be recognized as one of the lost classics of the '90s. File under "devastatingly brilliant".
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VINE VOICEon 26 February 2003
Its taken me a long time to locate this album, but I eventually tracked it down online - so believe me its still out there. I was worried that perhaps Thea hadn't reached her peak on "Burning Dorothy" and that I was buying a second rate first album of a truly great singer/songwriter. But...
"Burning Dorothy" is actually much, much better than her later works. Don't get me wrong, her later albums are more upbeat and electronic and I'm sure they're more catchy. In Burning Dorothy however, Gilmore is exploring her genre with her guitar and doing it with lyrical poise and genius. The lyrics are better, and rawer, than on Rules for Jokers or The Lipstick Conspiracies. In fact, she sounds a lot more like her American counterpart, Ani Difranco, who continues to dominate women's folk/rock music.
Track it down and buy it!
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on 31 January 2014
Ignore the all-to-easy clichéd comparisons with better known artists: That Thea stands as a unique talent is as apparent in this debut as in any later work. If you listen unprejudiced, the guts, passion, vulnerability and rawness of adolescence can reach you in places the elsewhere-mentioned contemporaries have either yet to discover or had neutered during production; there's beauty, too. The music is there, the intellect is there, the skill is there (and how), the lucidity is there, and the way she sings f*** is just delicious; the phoney accent is also much less of a big deal than it could be. Overall a great prequel to Lipstick (if not better) - but if you're one of the gentler-eared townies who politely fill the hall when she plays at home, probably best sticking to what you're comfy with. For me, worth every penny... and Thea - and hubby - remain national treasures. (tip: if none of this quite rings true, play it again, only louder.)
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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.
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on 4 March 2014
Do not be fooled. For me this has everything from adrenalin to tear-inducing lyrics. OK it's more raw and meaty, less produced, less polished than later works but for me it's the best along with Lipstick Conspiracies and Murphy's Heart.
The pity is that Thea doesn't seem to do her early stuff at gigs - maybe the rude lyrics seem unseemly now for a mother of two!
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on 21 March 2015
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