By Dave Bertram
Whitburn’s very own, Nadine Shah, had a significant breakthrough with her 2017 Mercury Prize nomination for Holiday Destination. It courted much critical acclaim, as she took on a range of polarising issues, from widespread gentrification and her identity as a British Muslim, to the North South divide, the refugee crisis and the ‘fascist in the White House.’
On her fourth record, Kitchen Sink, she takes it from the macro-political to the macro-social as she addresses the many stereotypes and miss-narratives surrounding women and the throng of expectations which surround womanhood. In an interview with the Guardian, she said, ‘It’s something women have to think about all the time. But you never hear songs about it.’
Think the social commentary of a Jarvis Cocker or an Alex Turner meeting the production of David Bryne, perhaps most specifically on his collaboration with St Vincent on Love This Giant, opener, Club Cougar, delivers just that; an angular riff driven by an almost pompous brass section and accompanied by a tight, compact rhythm.
Yet despite the subject matter, the record on the whole is sonically upbeat, which when contrasted with Shah’s soft, murky, deep delivery making the listener feel uneasy, is Bryne all over – gloomily cheerful.
Buckfast borrows Byrne’s knack for an intoxicating groove and sharp, distorted guitar lines as she croons repeatedly, ‘Reciting all the times you kicked yourself you’ve missed.’ One of the record’s highlights, Ladies for Babies (Goats For Love), shuffles along effortlessly on light droning notes before it explodes into a ferocious chorus where the sentiment certainly spills, at least sonically. Walk delivers another roaring synth-stroke-brass line as Shah retorts, ‘I don’t want your love’.
But it’s on Trad where she sews the record’s purpose on her metaphorical sleeve. ‘Shave my legs, freeze my eggs. Will you want me when I’m, old,’ opens the first verse aboard an uplifting, bouncy rhythm section, as Shah confronts the expectations and concerns of women and the constraints of marital traditions.
Shah is becoming a master of articulating significantly important social and political issues through the vehicle of intriguing instrumentation and song writing, providing her own take on the post-punk and rock blend. While the issues she purports here aren’t grabbing today’s headlines and thus may be overlooked by this year’s nominee lists, they probably shouldn’t.
Secret Meeting score: 78
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