ALBUM REVIEW: Nadine Shah – Kitchen Sink | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Infectious Music

Released: 26.06.20








Everyone’s a bit lost at the moment, aren’t they? The lucky ones among us have been sat at home for three months, climbing the walls, sick to death of themselves, and on occasion the ones they live with. And while we check our privilege and castigate ourselves for this self-pity because at the time of writing there’s (officially) 42,000-odd families grieving for a loved one, and countless other people facing awful hardship, there’s no escaping how hard this lockdown is in general.

So, as ever, we turn to social media to distract ourselves, and if you’re like me and avoid Twitter like the proverbial flaming garbage fire it is, musicians’ Instagram feeds can be a bit of a lifeline, because there’s been some great living room gigs and even festivals in some cases. And man, I’m so grateful for this, because I know from what I’ve read many of these artists are fighting their own battles to stay solvent in the absence of the traditional live circuit

Nadine Shah is one of those to be using her Insta account to do something interesting with her Payback series, turning the tables to interview several journalists and broadcasters, and it’s been brilliant. It’s a pretty characteristic action for Shah, who has a track record of thinking outside the box and challenging the status quo, which is a thread which continues throughout her fourth record Kitchen Sink.

Her voice has always been an incredibly powerful instrument, but what really stands out about it on Kitchen Sink is how she deploys it. She’s an exceptionally versatile singer, and she’s grown particularly adept at tailoring her delivery to her message. Buckfast is perhaps the best example of this, as she delivers lines like “pretend to everyone you wished that you were dead” and “now you’re Buckfast pissed” with an almost audible sneer. Elsewhere, on Ladies for Babies (Goats For Love), it’s brilliantly sinister how she spits out the words “a little baby” like a malevolent phantom.

The theme of what women are supposed to be is front and centre on Kitchen Sink, and Shah is determined to slash societal norms to ribbons. Right from the off, on Club Cougar, she’s playfully mocking the male gaze with a knowing half-smile: “when you’re younger, call me a cougar, all dressed up, think I did it for you, make eye contact, think I adore you”. Meanwhile, on the aforementioned Ladies for Babies, she’s looking to redress the balance of decades of history of popular songs which view women exclusively through the lens of male eyes: “he wants his lady to be a lady, to care less, be hairless”. This song is one of the record’s high points, not least for its dizzying, forceful chorus.

Shah started to explore the theme of the world’s expectations of women as they pass thirty on  2016 from her previous album Holiday Destination, only this time all those “friends who are detoxing” are either having babies or feeling the pressure to do so. As she tells us on Dilly Dally, “I am aware of the passing of time”, before continuing even more frankly on Trad: “Shave my legs, freeze my eggs, will you still want me when I am old?” But then, as she later points out, sometimes it’s ok to just enjoy drinking Ukrainian wine until you throw up and send drunk emails.

Musically, Kitchen Sink is a fitting and logical follow-up to the excellent Holiday Destination. It’s an eclectic soup of ideas, which compliments her multi-faceted deliveries beautifully. These songs are crying out to be played live, whenever that may be possible. There’s times on the record when you can practically see Shah prowling around the stage to these meandering rhythms, firing out her words like some kind of goth high priestess. Along with the stompers, there’s some gorgeous, eerie moments on Kitchen Sink too, with Kite and Prayer Mat possessing a particularly spooky beauty.

It gets clearer with every release, but Nadine Shah is a truly special artist who we have so much to learn from. Kitchen Sink is another wonderful album, and we’re incredibly lucky to have her making music in our times.


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