Reviews - Week 60

Charlotte Hatherley

Grey will fade

Double Dragon Music

Charlotte Hatherley joined Irish pop rockers Ash seven years ago, and it is fair to say that ever since then their star has been in the ascendancy. She had already established herself on the London circuit playing in proto riot-grrl group Nightnurse at the tender age of just fifteen. She would spend her days studying towards her A-Levels, and then playing loud, high on attitude gigs around the capitals club scene in the evenings. How her homework must have suffered. It was with this background that she signed up for stadium tours and festival furores with the aforementioned Ash - indeed her first gig was in front of 50,000 fans at V97. So her pedigree is certainly not in question. And on the strength of this album, neither is her talent.

Charlotte Hatherley steps out of the considerable shadow of Tim Wheeler to lay out her wares. She climbs down off his billowing coat-tails and illustrates, in a pure, sweet, simple uncomplicated manner just how much talent is coursing through her veins. In the same way that George Harrison was perhaps the best songwriter in The Beatles, yet the least recognised; and in the same way that George Harrison was the best looking Beatle, Charlotte Hatherley has proved herself to me at the least on a par with Tim Wheeler when it comes to song writing, her performance, as I have said is certainly not in question, and she is, if you ask me, the best looking member of Ash. Charlotte Hatherley is a modern day George Harrison for the indie scene.

The overall sound is sub-Buzzcockian pop rock, with overtones of the Undertones, and whilst there is an obvious Ash feel to it all it's hard to say whether Charlotte Hatherley has influenced them, of that they have influenced her. Whichever way round it is the results are pleasingly relentless, an upbeat, rhythmically astute and thoroughly accomplished debut.

'Kim Wilde' kicks off proceedings, throbbing, driving guitars underpin the saccharine tinged vocals, it's that age old juxtaposition of the hard and the soft, the rough and the smooth. This is unadulterated pop rock, thrilling, exciting. If this doesn't make you want to jump around then I have no idea what would.

'Rescue Plan' is a more sturdy piece than the overt flippancy of the opener. Whilst the track envelops you in a swirling mass of layered guitars and vocals there is an ever-present grinding, pulsating guitar track that remains right through, making sure that nothing strays too far from the path.

Tempo steps up a pace as we move onto 'Paragon', and likewise with current single 'Summer'. The latter being carried along on a ripple, if not quite a wave, of 50's rock and roll. This should be the soundtrack to a thousand beach parties this summer, musically feel-good, if lyrically somewhat darker.
Following hot on the heels of this summer anthem is 'Down' which itself is bathed in dreamy melancholia. "...the thought that comes to mind, maybe there's nothing to find..."

A stunningly simple ballad, with notes gently oozing from her guitar and falling as sonic raindrops to the soundtrack.

The album steps up a gear after 'Down', as it prepares to build to a crescendo. 'Stop' is grindingly semi-industrial grunge funk skunk rock, laced with effortlessly controlled feedback, giving and impression of music delicately balanced on the brink of collapse. This time, the edginess of the music is echoed in the lyrics. "...I'm feeling uneasy, a future uncertain..."

'Where I'm Calling From' manages to put Bowies 'Space Oddity' in it's place with ease, whilst 'Why You Wanna?' again surges the album forwards in preparation for the two strongest tracks contained herein.

'Bastardo' is a rollicking guitar tale of a late night latino lothario who makes off with our heroines favourite guitar whilst she sleeps off the romantic excesses of the night before. In his favour though he did leave some money on the table "left for the memory of me" - What a charmer indeed. And closing the album is the utterly gorgeous, yet stunningly powerful 'Grey Will Fade'. The track will be familiar to long term fans as it was the Hatherley penned b-side to the Ash single 'There's A Star'. It ends the set on a high note, an optimistic, hopeful missive to a disillusioned friend.

"There is nothing to be gained, by running all those bad times through your head again..."

An effortlessly uplifting end to the piece, the luxurious layered vocal harmonies, haunting, yet enchanting, they send a shiver down your spine without being over intense.

Charlotte Hatherley has proved with this thrilling, stunning salvo of pop perfection that she is far more than just a hired hand in some guy's rock band. She has illustrated with finesse, ease, and eloquence that she is a formidable force herself, a force to be reckoned with. Tim Wheeler should be glad that he has her on board, but he should be looking over his shoulder, and holding tightly onto his crown, it is at risk.

"Lets go to some place we don't know, it's not running away, it's just trying to take control..."

Johnny Mac





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