Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Cleverly packaged to replicate a Little Golden Book (but with appropriately dark illustrations), this album by Chelsea Nikkel (with Jonathan Bree formerly of the Brunettes co-producing) walks a narrow line between twee sounding childlike pop and those more menacing undertones found in children's stories like the Grimms' fairytales.
So here you have Ice Reign which warns that people can be mean (wars and online) "so start being civil, courteous too or it will be off with your head".
There is also this: "Life in New Zealand is pleasant enough, when we turn 22 it's not violent enough, we want fast pace and fast trains and much bigger clubs, we want money and kudos and much stronger drugs . . ." So we go overseas where we do the same things with not much space of the subways and come home two years later "with a sigh of relief, but we say it was better".
This is clever and clear writing. There are warnings about drinking too much "or you'll only end up like your dad" (a deftly "orchestrated" piece), and the Cigarette Duet (with Bree) is a him-and-her discussion over the health risk. Sort of Nancy and Lee without the innuendo and metaphors.
By the lyrics and messages being kept simple, they perfectly match the cute music which most often sounds like it has come from a nursery (Monkey Eats Banana).
Amidst the more general cruelness and truth-speaking ("You could be something great, but something great is nothing new" and "You will die and cannot save your life") is a more direct swipe at the former popera star Yulia who has married an older man/her manager which lifts a line from the Exponents' Victoria ("what do you see in him?").
And the opening of Frack cleverly suggests a childlike version of Springsteen's Philadelphia.
So this clever, barbed, tart and avoids the tweeness of its surfaces by being so mischievous and sharp. It does feel a little long at fortysomething minutes, but it I doubt it is intended to be listened to in a single sitting.
Dip and dive. This is enjoyably sweet'n'sour.
Like the sound of this? Then try this.