Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?
This year has been all about female singer-songwriters. Back in January, in the BBC’s ‘Sound of 2009,’ four of the top six hotly tipped newcomers were female solo artists, all of which – Florence and the Machines, Lady GaGa, La Roux and Little Boots – have made good on their potential to some extent. And strikingly, they have all brought something new to the table (even excluding Shakira, Cheryl, that Burke, et al).
So, initially at least, Paloma Faith’s debut lacks the shock value of her peers. From the start of the first track (and incidentally, the first single), Stone Cold Sober, you think so much so Lily Allen (circa Mark Ronson). On most other tracks, the sound is similar to Frank-era Winehouse. It’s a sign of how dominant those two chanteuses are that so many new singers are one or the other.
However, it’s not fair to write Faith off simply because she has a similar affinity for jazz and a North London accent. For a start, she’s been plugging away at the business for years. Secondly, it’s much more direct and charming, in its way, than Frank. Romance is Dead is a case in point. It mixes wit (“I asked you for a letter/So you e-mailed/Have we failed?”) with the injunction to “Think of all the magic we could make.”
Thirdly, she doesn’t lack novelty-value. As the title suggests, Do You Want the Truth is wonderfully surreal. Faith has said that ‘melancholy informs everything I do,’ but her songs of lost love sound neither helpless, nor dreary.
Rather, there’s an injection of vaudeville (Faith was a burlesque performer and magician’s assistant) that few other singers can match. With a bit more narrative this album would make a wonderful, if weird, musical. Songs like Broken Doll lend themselves naturally, and the record builds up fantastically (and that really is the word) to New York – about losing a guy to the city as if it was a lady. It works so well because it’s a new take on recognised themes. The same could be said about Paloma Faith in general.