Friday, July 14, 2006

Vivat Regina

Women In Rock is one of these tedious subjects that keeps getting trotted out by the more waffly music rags and the more earnest Sunday broadsheets - whither the new Kate Bush, whose recent sectionable return should see her squarely packed away to Arkham, or the new Chrissie Hynde, who nowadays seems more concerned with licensing her tracks to groups with the musical nutrition content of a pack of Mini Rolls? There's Goldfrapp, there's Cat Power, there's Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, but these kinds of people tend to put paid to the journos' Who Will Lead Us Now raging histrionics caused by the Cataracts of Righteousness (+2 saving throw against passive-aggression), so they tend not to get mentioned. Hurrah and huzzah, then, for Regina Spektor. Only she can slay these tedious retreads of the same old rants about how the Man is keeping the Woman down in the world of three chords and a cloud of dust.

You know why? Because she'll remind these journos of Kate Bush. She's 'kooky', you see. 'Kooky', in this instance, is a teeth-grindingly backward shorthand for someone whose songs are the kind of thing that would have Diane Warren retiring to bed with a mug of milky tea and an air of quiet bafflement. Her calling card, inasmuch as it's the closest thing she has to a radio-friendly unit shifter (it has a video! and everything!), is Us, a playful capturing of love-as-genuine-romance, love-as-excitement, with lyrics seemingly patched together from old cryptic crosswords and a violinist who's well on their way to RSI. If you can't cope with songs with lyrics involving rusting noses (on statues, obv) then you might want to pick up the new album by Katie Melua, or something else which is similarly punchable, instead.

If, however, you like Us, you'll like Spektor's new album, Begin To Hope. Less spiky and rough-edged than her most recent collection, Maryann Meets The Gravediggers And Other Stories, her fourth album proper has Spektor comfortable with a budget without losing any of the charming, touching flavours that run through her music. Spektor's got her full range on display here, from Samson, with its evocation of the heartache and loss that come with knowing that someone you love is now with someone else, through to That Time, a sweet summation of the kind of conversations that come with a long and comfortable relationship.

For someone who's so young (she's only six weeks older than me, and I'll fight anyone who says I'm not still young), Spektor is a remarkably assured songwriter, and Begin To Hope is a great album. Music may be a man's world, but it would be nothing without a woman, and a lyrically sharp Noo Yawk girl with a blisteringly good live show may be just the thing for you if, like the rest of the right-thinking world, you'd like to kick Sandi Thom down the stairs.

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