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Ambitious lyrical content doesn’t mix with twee sound.
While the production value is still high, the absence of Neil Torr means there is a same- ness to all the songs, thanks to Cheri MacNeil’s lyrics.
Okay, it is a concept album, based on her personal take on apartheid, so it is very inward looking, with a sense of searching for her identity in the actions of others.
But still, the musical diversity of tempo and melody which are so carefully crafted is almost lost in the welter of mild angst by proxy.
Carefully crafted are the watchwords – piano notes merrily tripping along and hints of catchy melodies make for a twee sound which doesn’t really mix with her heavy subject matter.
It used to be that music about political awakening coming out of this country was racked with pain, anger, confusion and sometimes a bit of righteous fury.
This one? Pretty much summed up by the refrain How could I know? on track 2, Took Them Away.
Lyrics only make up half the picture, and on the musical side it is all soaring vocal choruses, big horns, theatrical strings and urgent percussion – all woven around her fairly distinctive voice. She may not have a huge vocal range, but she disguises it well.
MacNeil is really pushing that catch in her voice to e-nun-ci-ate her syllables, emphasising the angsty singer/songwriter, I am in pain sound, but CocoRosie or Regina Spektor she ain’t.
Despite the lyrical content the voice conveys no anger, it’s all so nice and pleasant. So, while the album may appeal to people like her who knew nothing about what was going on around her as she grew up, it’s just a bit too quaintly affected. – Theresa Smith