an abrasive edge to Lesley Rankine’s second solo album that lifts it above
most of her contemporaries’. Some of this probably comes from her previous
sojourn as the fiery Scots singer with London mind-expanding noise terrorists
Silverfish. Silverfish were a band notable both for their demonic, exasperating,
energetic live shows, where the bass and drums frequently seemed to be following
different tribal leaders, and for inventing the much-beloved festival t-shirt
slogan "Hips, Lips, Tits, Power." They weren’t Riot Grrrl, far
too grungy for that, but they had all the makings of some damn fine evenings out–if
you liked to dance.
of this schooling has clearly rubbed off on Rankine’s new triphop career:
no lazy, breathy, sexy, girlie vocals here (a la Sarah Cracknell). No not-so-subtle
appeals to parts of the male anatomy. Rankine approaches dance music the same
way her forebears like Crass anarcho-collective recording artist Annie Anxiety
or the Pop Group approached dance music: as a tool of expression and subversion.
has seen some bad times between this album and her previous one, 1995’s mostly
unrealized Salt Peter. Following a world tour in ’96, she moved to
New Orleans. Six months later, the clothing of a murdered woman from across the
street was dumped in her trash. She left the city five days later and moved to
Seattle, recorded a track with aging Welsh lech Tom Jones before it became fashionable,
appeared in a Mountain Dew tv ad and then spent three years in limbo while her
British record company Creation decided they’d had enough of putting out
crap Status Quo imitations and called it a day.
the wait seems to have done her good. Everywhere on this record are the most unexpected
sounds, a scary or sequenced vocal, gracefully flowing beats that take a sudden
hiccup or judder just because Lesley has a short attention span. This is triphop,
sure–but triphop as defined by eccentric Bristol singer Tricky’s exotic
fancies, or Bjork’s less commercial flights of freedom. "Fly,"
for example, could hail from a time when Augustus Pablo’s dub dalliances
still held sway, "Grace" is both beautiful and unsettling, "Lamplight"
uses vibes but not in an irritating way. Most of this is because Rankine does
the whole ugly/glamour interface thing so well, and also calls in some cool indie
names to help her out, among them Girls Against Boys’ Eli Janney, Her Space
Holiday and Dot Allison. When Rankine started her tentative career as a femme
chanteuse, it seemed she’d fallen in thrall to fashion: now everyone else
has moved on, leaving the field clear. This is a record to do her former band