SUGAR SHACK RECORDS 6th September, 2019
“When I was young I thought I’d bring the world to its knees / By smoking skunk in the daytime and reading Socrates” is the opening couplet from this album and a big welcome to its dark and louche take on growing up into a cynical adulthood and a reliance on anti-depressants to cover the gaping void at the centre of existence. ‘Call In Sick Today’ is not only the title of the opening song, but the underlying message of the whole album.
Emily Breeze has been through a few incarnations and is well known in the Bristol music scene. She’s re-invented herself as a world-weary chanteuse, sometimes channelling Nick Cave, sometimes a touch of Serge Gainsbourg and plenty of MOR rock.
There have been three singles from the album. The new one, the third, is “Work”. She’s can’t stay up late, she works nine to five, she can’t see your band tonight – because she’s dead inside. She’s full of inspirational team work and a hit at the office party. She’s going to be someone but, like she said, she’s dead inside. It’s a simplistic teenage sentiment but it needs saying loud regularly, if only to remind us daily-grinders not to sell the last inch of our souls.
Single two was the epic Ego Death, one we meant to cover but ran out of time on. Breeze fantasises about her work burning down and no longer drinking joyless cups of Gregg’s coffee. “The older I get, the more dangerous I become”. “I’ve only just started to get interesting”. An epic five and a half minutes long, the spoken vocals and sung chorus dig deep into frustration and daily darkness before a chewy guitar solo. She is very conscientious about her carbon footprint. She is stuck in traffic. She is exploding with empathy. She has an impeccable credit rating. She will liquefy your heart and drink it from a champagne glass.
Elsewhere, she dips into the horrors and delusions of Heaven’s Gate and Aileen Wuornos. Thinking her way around the ways those people thought themselves into irrationality, she underlines the other songs about the consensual delusion that is 21st century life. The smooth cabaret-rock slips it down like poison in Kool-Aid.
The band does a great job of providing a smooth surround to the smoky, mature vocals as they get nicely naif and world-weary at the same time. Pleasant to listen to and slipping down all too easy, there is a grim gallows humour and existential terror in the vocals that belies the band’s polished sound. Emily drops in a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Raining In My Heart’, which has been covered by nearly everyone and underlines the way so many have this feeling but cover it over except when doused in pop music. I reckon she’d do a great cover of Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is?’
In all, this is polished and fabulously theatrical pop that entertains while unsettling and dislodging those lies we tell ourselves.