sat 20/04/2024

Album: Nadine Shah - Filthy Underneath | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Nadine Shah - Filthy Underneath

Album: Nadine Shah - Filthy Underneath

Bravely confessional, cleverly composed

Indie national treasure Nadine Shah is back, which is excellent news. Not least because it might not have happened. She lands, this time, with extra baggage – divorce, rehab, death and near-death flavour this, her fifth album. It’s not an easy listen but it’s certainly a visceral and moving one.

In the three years since the release of Kitchen Sink, a lot has changed in the music scene, particularly around women (see Self Esteem). Does she still have a place? Abso-bloody-lutely. Beguiling opener “Even Light” demonstrates her new higher register and the way she’s stretching her magnificent voice even further. Her long-term collaborator, Ben Hillier, sculpts the synths and drums to allow her room to soar. And the clever layering of that mellifluous voice produces a myriad of moods and meanings. First single “Topless Mother” concerns testing therapy sessions yet manages to be an absolute explosion of positivity, boasting “only-she-could-get-away-with-it” word associations: “Sinatra/Viagra/Iguana” and “Sharia/Diana/Samosa”. 

There’s so much more to unpack here. Her effortless juggling of the sacred and profane, the humour and clear-sightedness of someone who’s been to hell and back but – most of all – the palpable joy in the strengthening powers of music. “Sad Lads Anonymous” is a sprechgesang piece full of self-loathing (“this is a dumb idea, even for you”) in which she questions her decision to move to the “dilapidated schizophrenic town” of Ramsgate, saying “the sea’s isn’t the only thing round here full of shite”. It’s troubling, claustrophobic, brilliant. Tribal rhythms and spooky synths power third single “Greatest Dancer”. A brutally honest tale of one of the saddest points of her substance abuse – the night she took her dying mother’s cancer medication while watching Strictly Come Dancing and the hallucinations that followed. She’s nowt but frank.

“Twenty Things” is an achingly sad love letter to the people she met in rehab, some of whom didn’t make it. The sparse production and use of repetition powerfully evoke the depths of despair. “Now I have removed the bottle I’m teething and I’m tired,” she opines. “You Drive, I Shoot” has the most fabulous hook which elevates the difficult yet inevitable subject of child becoming parent – another classic Shah concoction.

“Hyperrealism” comes as close to “normal” balladeering as she’s likely to get, which makes you admire her determination to forge something unique. She could easily do what others do (and better than them) and sell her soul for “success”. Finishing with yet another sparse and haunting song, “French Exit” digs deeper into her attempted suicide which, for anyone who has got to that point, will ring noisy bells. It’s not about the drama, just “sliding off the dance floor”.

That’s just a quick dip into a deep pool – there’s so much more. This is an album of immense depth, which deserves time and attention. It’s the measure of her exceptional artistry that she can weave something beautiful from such anguish, from feelings of being filthy underneath. 

This is an album of immense depth, which deserves time and attention

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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