7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Maybe love is just a requiem for the soul...,
This review is from: Fires (Audio CD)
Nerina Pallot hasn't really had the breaks she deserves. You could be forgiven for wondering why she didn't just give up the music business after the deafening lack of response to first album "Dear Frustrated Superstar". "Fires" also started out overlooked by the music industry, and it's all credit to Nerina's determination (as well as her sublime live performances and the fierce loyalty of her fans) that she's pushed it long and hard enough to make people notice her. A change in musical fashions has certainly helped; the re-release of "Fires" and the heavy promotion behind singles "All Good People" and "Everybody's Gone to War" are a welcome sign that now and again, talent and persistence can get the rewards they deserve.
Comparisons to other singer-songwriters are inevitable. I find myself hearing echoes of the Indigo Girls ("Halfway Home"), Natalie Imbruglia ("Learning to Breathe"), Jewel ("Mr. King"), KT Tunstall ("All Good People") and Eddi Reader ("Nickindia") as well as the more obvious parallels to piano-based songstresses Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and Tori Amos. Some of these have clearly influenced Nerina's development as a songwriter; others have probably helped create the market niche she can now occupy. That's no disrespect to the songs themselves; as well as infectious, under-the-skin melodies and intelligent, often quirky lyrics, there's a strong and confident musicianship underlying every track, and an exquisite ear for a well-crafted arrangement. Nerina plays like a concert pianist, enhancing the more delicate tracks with subtle orchestration finely crafted to fit the mood of every piece. And she sings like an angel; her natural timbre is a little husky (perfect for seduction ballads or anti-war rants) yet her upper register is crystal clear, the high notes of "Sophia" send shivers through me every time I hear them.
The songs are marked by a refreshing, heart-on-sleeve honesty (from the heartfelt "I don't want to die" of "Everybody's Gone to War", to the pragmatic repeated "we're geeks" of "Geek Love") and a poet's sense of the power of imagery. Several of the songs are quite introspective, even cynical; but the same lyricist who can write "Maybe love is just a requiem for the soul" also has a knack of capturing the joy and the spark in dreams, in moments of inspiration, and in the discovery of new love. Nor does Nerina mince her words when commenting on the society around her; "Everybody's Gone To War" may be a great radio-friendly piece of pop-rock but it's also one of the fiercest critiques of global politics to have assailed the upper reaches of the charts in years.
If there's one minor criticism of the album, it's simply that in places it's a little too highly polished. Nerina Pallot is a live performer full of vivacity and charm, and here and there it does sound as if that sparkle has been a little overwhelmed by the polished production. But that's a minor criticism; in other respects this album is one of the finest (and most addictive) I've heard for a long time. Personal favourites: the mildly demented travelogue of "Idaho", the beautiful and spine-tingling "Sophia", and the gloriously uplifting "Learning to Breathe". A stack of songs that have got themselves firmly lodged in my head and heart, and stubbornly refuse to shift.