THE TABOOS OF mental health treatment in males provides some of the inspiration for the dark and provocative material that makes up Nadine Shah’s debut, Love Your Dum And Mad. A collaboration with Depeche Mode producer, Ben Hillier, the album is a tribute to two male friends who took their lives during its making. One was the artist responsible for the stunning album cover.
Right from the outset, but specially from the second song ‘To Be A Young Man’, the fresh and exhilarating influence of Scott Walker is unmistakable, along with a kind of Nina Simone/Joan Armatrading/Toni Childs hybrid with traditional jazz inflections. But minus the mainstream pop leanings of some of those artists, Nadine Shah presents like a white European version of Meshell Ndegeocello backed by a very well-rehearsed and shiny Velvet Underground. Very developed for a debut, this is like a strong third record.
Of course with singing, even if trained as Shah has been, the resulting noise is more often than not a natural tonal convergence of whatever the singer had prolonged exposure to in their formative years as opposed to just trying to cop someone’s style because they like it. That can happen too, but it’s not what I hear with Nadine Shah. Her voice has soaked up whatever it needed to, untainted by the common-as-muck 21st century need to jump on a vocal style bandwagon and milk it for money. Ultimately, she’s doing her own thing.
By the time I got to the song ‘Floating’, I was ready to relinquish the already spare, eccentric and sometimes industrial flavoured backing tracks and fall headlong into a Walker-esque kaleidoscope of seductive knife sharpeners and plundering meat tenderizers but with a female slant. Such was the suggestion of Shah’s vocal vibrato.
But for now I was happy to carry on with the beautifully recorded swaps between rhythmically edgy and spacious drumless sonics. With much skill they’ve combined and balanced the rough and the beautiful without giving way to either, all topped off with that silky voice. And though the lyrics are of a high calibre, the singing style alone seemed to satisfy whatever search for meaning I may or may not have been craving. Nadine Shah could convincingly emote the phone book. PETER KEARNS
Sound = 3.5/5
Music = 4/5