Sunday, September 09, 2007

Drastic Fantastic - KT Tunstall

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This album was second only to Rilo Kiley in terms of my most anticipated album of 2007. Yes this was more important than Kate Nash mainly because Eye To The Telescope was one of my most loved albums of the past few years. Indeed I remember with a fondness having to change my top albums list of 2004 list about 3 seconds before I was due to unveil it to the world because even though ETTT had only been out for about 2 weeks before the end of the year I had to include it.

Of course all this ignores the fact that Acoustic Extravaganza was a complete waste of my time, but as that's not a "proper" album I'll continue to treat that as an aberration that I need not bother with. But in many ways it signifies the problem that Tunstall faces. Eager to stay true to her roots she may be, but when your debut album sells 4 million copies your record company want something similar next time out.

And indeed we get two KT Tunstall's for the price of one here. We get the glamour pop princess on the one hand (one only needs to look at the cover picture), whilst the old folk KT still wants it's time in the spotlight. You cannot deny that on certain tracks, radio-friendly pop mega sellers were certainly in mind.

In might come as little surprise to anyone who's had more than a passing conversation with me that the pop side of things is very much to my liking. The likes of Little Favours, If Only and Hold On are instantly memorable. Indeed, despite it's lack of a decent chorus, I was singing Hold On for about three days after first hearing the album in it's entirety - a feat all the more remarkable considering it's playing in isolation never moved me all that much as a single.

I Don't Want You Now and next single Saving My Face aren't quite up to those levels but are both good songs as well.

I have to admit that it all gets a bit too pedestrian for me in parts. Paper Aeroplane and White Bird are not terrible songs, but can't really hold a candle to the slower songs from ETTT and without being too unkind, Beauty Of Uncertainty might well prove to be my cue for a toilet break at the upcoming tour. Slim it down to 3 minutes instead of 5 and it might have kept me interested for it's duration.

Still all is not lost on this side of the coin. Someday Soon just enchants me. Its simple, but wonderfully heartfelt and is the song that most grabs me like Heal Over did on its predecessor.

It's hard to say that it's better than Eye To The Telescope, and I have to admit to not really believing the "you have to be drastic to be fantastic" line that Tunstall has been spinning, but that doesn't make this a bad album.

It has enough shiny pop hits to captivate the casual fan who loves her on the basis of Black Horse & Cherry Tree or Suddenly I See and also, despite my ambivalence to some of the tracks, enough of the softer/acoustic side of KT that drew in other people as well.

The only "negative" I can really come up with is that at times it seems as if KT is trying to be all things to all people and as such it doesn't have the cohesive brilliance of Telescope and it's not the great leap that it might have been. Still, whilst it may not be convincingly "Drastic", at least it's a lot closer to being "Fantastic".


Anonymous said...

I'm a huge Tunstall fan, but I'm not going to be pestering you with any crazy ass fan hate mail - it's a fair review, and I agree with you on some of your points of criticism. (I'll overlook that Acoustic Extravaganza being a waste of time comment though, or I'll be here all day proving you wrong :-P) What I do feel comfortable about with this album is that KT neither fully sold out to anybody, nor got too comfortable in her previous successes to progress and try something a little different. And I think that essentially sums up what's excellent about her, so despite a few potential flaws in the album I still fully respect it, which is almost as important as enjoying it.

Jacs said...

You seem kind of begrudgingly pleased with it! By the tone of the review, I thought you were going to say it's a load of crap, but you didn't! I can definitely imagine the pop/folk scenario you talk of (and I've read other reviews that mention that too). I can't wait to listen to it tomorrow and judge for myself!