Review: Jack Foley
VERY few debut albums arrive with the weight of expectation reserved
for Martina Topley-Bird's Quixotic.
Having made a name for herself as Tricky's better half, on the
genre-defining album, Maxinquaye, she then parted company
and has spent the past seven years waiting to unleash her solo
work upon an expectant fanbase.
The debut single, Need One, whetted the appetite still
further, with its heady mix of sultry vocals and aggressive beats,
set against the lumbering rock of Josh (Queens of the Stone Age)
Clearly, with her husky, laidback style, Martina was a female
artist to watch - and the resulting album merely serves to confirm
her reputation as one of the brightest divas of her generation.
Mixing a number of different styles, Quixotic is probably
not going to be the album many were expecting.
Yet its quality is unmistakable, thanks in no small part to the
quality of its collaborators - which include Tricky (of course),
David Holmes and James Bond composer, David Arnold.
It's also a great deal more moody than some might have guessed,
filled with atmospheric grooves and beats which seem designed
to bring out the best in that husky style.
Take the gospel-inspired Soul Food, for example, which
harks back to the Northern Soul/Motown era, which benefits greatly
from Arnold's sweeping orchestration, lending the track a classic,
Or Anything, in which Martina's seductive tones excite
in the same way as Morcheeba's Skye when you first heard them.
Lullaby is another excellent showcase for her vocal style,
at times girlish, yet always bluesy, and possessing a hypnotic
value that makes it ideal to listen to on a hot summer's day,
or an equally sweaty evening in the Deep South.
The David Holmes school of fusing blues samples with some really
dirty, truly funky slide guitars, adds a touch of class to the
rousing, tough as nails, Too Tough To Die, while Tricky
gets in on the act with the slightly warped love song, Ragga,
in which Martina speaks of doing things she wouldn't normally
do when it comes to her lover's touch.
Elsewhere, the supremely seductive Lying comes across
like a bluesy daydream, with its lazy beats, Arnold-esque keyboards
and jazz-based backdrop; while Stevie's (Days of a Gun)
brings the album to a suitably grandiose, sweeping finale (Arnold-style),
befitting much of the mood which has come before it.
Given the diversity on show, it is little wonder to report that
the album occasionally falls under the weight of its own ambition,
particularly during the up-tempo I Wanna Be There, during
which her voice seems to get lost amid Holmes's frenetic beats
and breaks. Or that it may take a couple of listens before you
properly get into it.
But this is a small price to pay for a debut album that drips
class. Do not let it pass you by.
2. Need One
4. Soul Food
6. Too Tough To Die
7. Sandpaper Kisses
8. Ragga Feat. Tricky
10. I Still Feel
12. I Wanna Be There
13. Day's Of A Gun