Emily Breeze "The Penny Arcade" (Laserghost, 2010)
Breeze?? ..F***ing hurricane more like..!!!!
Bristol-based 20-something Emily Breeze was raised on Dylan, Orbison, Cohen and Hank Williams, but certainly not at the expense of the primal sonic terrorism of The Stooges and the Birthday Party. That she manages to filter these disparate influences, along with a large ration of originality, makes for a wonderful concoction on this frankly remarkable debut album of dirty live-wired rock & roll.
Breeze and her band have an intrinsic understanding and affinity with blues, country and roots music, but also a need to then kick the living crap out of each in the name of wonderfully modern melodic catharsis.
Opener ‘Monday’s Right Hook’ is a hi-octane blast of rollicking country-edged rockabilly ( “There’s a side of me that you can’t hurt, ‘cos somebody already got there first”) It’s here we get our first glimpse of Breeze in full, turbo-charged flight before the pace subsides and the song breaks briefly for some plaintive, reflective guitar chords, just before Emily screams it back into top gear with a “Break it!, smash it!”. The band follow her orders and then she hollers the chorus as if life depended on it, along with a bit of a tongue in cheek blast of Proud Mary’s “rolling down the river” hook and then a sudden emergency halt. It’s breathtaking.
One can understand how it may appear a touch lazy to mention PJ Harvey at this point, but I’m going to anyway. It’s certainly there, occasionally, in the vocal tone, the primal & affecting scream, and blues-edged emotional violence (and obviously also that she can rock 10 times harder, with more threat and danger, than most men will even dare)
In fact, she has one hell of a voice; yes in part Harvey’s visceral, sensual howl coupled with the poise and tone of Kate Jackson (The Long Blondes) when it’s required. She’s a captivating narrator, with Molotov cocktails of smart, ugly, sly, bitter, clever, snarling, bruised, raw and sometimes hilarious turns of phrase. This is a world where a lover’s meeting is “a car crash, a meteor” (‘Penny Arcade’), and close friends are just bitter rivals in waiting.
The gems come thick and fast. Single of the year in waiting ‘Money’ with its edgy but accessible rock feel cloaks some deliciously sarcastic venom (”I’ll smile, say something devastatingly clever, and you’ll be shot down with regret…the next time I see you I’ll be famous”) Like so much on this record, it begs for use of the repeat button.
Countering that, the slow-burning ‘Last Request’ is a wonderful melodic, emotive ballad and along with bruised country weepie ‘Matt Black & Chrome’, proves she can command an excellent song with poise and devastatingly fractured grace, even when stripped of her energetic vocal arsenal, without losing an iota of edge or danger. She even breaths life into Hank Williams’ standard ‘Lost Highway’, which in Breeze’s hands carries an as yet untapped air of despondency and desperate pain, however it’s her brilliantly written and performed originals that are the draw here.
Emily is backed throughout by a band that are consistently both tight and necessarily loose, and compliment Emily to perfection; possessing as they do a natural feel for exciting rock dynamics, and an energy that is beyond the reach of most performers. In fact I can’t wait to see them perform this material live.
….and anyway, who says it’s too early to start talking about the ‘album of the year’ title? ‘The Penny Arcade’ is an exceptional debut from an exceptional new artist. Buy this now; it will vastly improve your life.
Date review added: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Reviewer: Ian Fildes
Related web link: Emily's MySpace