By John Armstrong, Manchester Correspondent
ALBUM REVIEW: The Price of the Ticket by Wendy James
There is no escape from the album artwork, it is, shall we say, striking… the original cover of “Electric Ladyland” and “Surfer Rosa” come to mind. So, is Wendy James laying herself bare in her new album? She has certainly assembled a fine cast of collaborators; in addition to her own guitar and keyboards she is joined by Lenny Kaye of Patti Smith Group on guitar, The Sex Pistols own Glen Matlock on bass, and drums provided by James Sclavunos of Grinderman–and they gel into a unit. This is not a competitive supergroup with everyone trying to stamp their mark on the finished piece but instead they play together as a band, with a wonderfully balanced, ego-less sound.
The voice, with its pure and correct pronunciation and breathy, sometimes spoken quality is unchanged and instantly recognisable. The two Racine albums (2004 & 2008) and her more recent 2011 issued I Came Here To Blow Minds album should already have demonstrated there was likely to be nothing to worry about in that respect.
The gospel-ish opening chant of “Paloma’s Downs” leads into a power chord sequence with punch.
“Indigent Blues” revels in a sixties girl group beat and multi-tracked vocal plus the two acoustically phrased guitar breaks. “I play a liquid guitar”.
“King Rat” has a vigorous dirty lilting garage punk beat coupled with a slowly pulled tremolo guitar and a subtle single note piano phrase following the vocal on the chorus.
“Love From the 9th” is far more of a dismissal song than a break up song “Maybe it’ll be better if we just leave each other” all delivered with a convincing resignation, while staying incredibly smooth.
The crunchy single “Bad Intentions and a Bit of Cruelty” was perhaps hamstrung as a promotional tool by repeated use of words that can’t be played on radio; however, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a female recording artist of fifty years will struggle to gain mainstream radio airplay, whereas releasing a single exactly as she wants it to be, is far more likely to please her existing fans and get them excited about the new album, which has also enjoyed a Pledge Music pre-order campaign.
“You’re a Dirt Bomb, Lester” is about the joy of being immersed in the heart of the New York factory and punk scene. “I chased my melancholy I saw it was a trap.” Lovely swooping feedback.
“Farewell to Love” is again a dismissal “Take all your belongings and get out before dark” with an sublime girl group sounding understated arrangement.
“Cowboy Rhythm” does indeed have one, the bass stretches like a horse at full pace, the backing vocals pull and the horizon gets nearer.
The LP ends with “Situation Normal At Surfrider” with its “A Town Called Malice/Can’t Hurry Love” bouncing bass line and a deeply infectious groove. This is what dance music should be about.
The CD issue contains an additional four songs “Screamin’ Back Washington” has sparse and aching vocals accompanied for the most part only by James’ own rhythm guitar and restrained piano.
“Why Oh Why Do You Still Hurt Me” has a rock-and-roll feel and a calypso chorus, Wanda Jackson would have loved it.
“You’re So Great” has that Transvision Vamp sting combined with total pop sensibility that will delight those looking for more Pop Art era sounds. The glorious 7’:07” cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding” drives relentlessly, pounding its way down the highway and finishes far too soon.
Running in at 58’:50” on the CD (which came with the vinyl LP) this is heavyweight in more than just 180gsm meaning. Superb.
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