Radio 2 listeners and Daily Mail readers rejoice your halcyon Goddess Katie Melua returns with her fourth album ‘The House’ (released on May 17th). The press release would have you believe that this is her most musically adventurous and lyrical expressive release to date. Is their any truth in such commentary or would it be more truthful to say that Katie has delivered more of the same.
Well it has to be said the opening single ‘The Flood’ did actually dare to be different by virtue of not really knowing what it was aiming for and slinging everything it could find into the pot and hoping for the best. As a consequence I did find myself somewhat surprised and dared to think that there might be something in the press.
Sadly that’s where Katie’s ‘Viva La Difference’ moments end relatively quickly and while the production is robust the actual content rapidly falls into the same rut that has sadly plagued her other releases. You see the problem with Katie is there is something that comes across in her music as slightly smug and self satisfied. She is a competent enough vocalist and swoons through these new additions to her repertoire without breaking anything resembling a sweat.
And therein lies the problem.
I don’t want comfort zone singing and I don’t want comfort zone songs. Yes, it’s quite obvious this will sell to a dedicated audience of antiquated old before their time hipsters who think that buying one of her albums is daringly ‘current’. However there is nothing about this collection of songs that does anything to raise the pulse or ingratiate itself into your mindset.
I listen to songs like ‘Red Balloons’ with its cliched metaphors about love and other such issues and find myself thinking about porridge cooling purely because that’s as turgid as this little collection gets. Then there are songs like ‘Happy Place’ which slaps itself on the back for being a little kooky, a little strange…except it’s not. Katie throws all manner of lyrical nonsense about ‘primal powers and giant towers’ out over a cute melody because ‘Hey, she’s daring to be different’. Except she’s not, its all bollocks and you’re not fooling me for a moment love.
By the time she starts singing about talking to ‘Tiny Aliens’ I’m starting to think there has been some serious issues with quality control. I mean dressing up some big production and splashing cliched science fiction sounds over the top does not necessarily make a decent track.
The production duties on the album are handled by non other than William Orbit, famed for his heritage in dance circles. Yes, his presence does provide for a very clean and relatively expansive sound. However for the most part he’s an unnecessary part of the equation. Most of the songs here are acoustically driven with string embellishments here and there. Orbit does lay down some of his weird bleepy sounds in places but to be honest it just sounds out of place.
Overall this is not the forward step the promotional bumph promises. Its frankly more of the safe and radio friendly material that Katie Melua is known for, Orbit’s presence on production salvages very little and one can only presume he did this job with his eyes shut because there are no giant audio leaps on offer.
A tedious listen that is so contrived and unambitious I almost feel sorry for the people who get their jollies out of this kind of thing.