Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Charlotte Hatherley - The Deep Blue
(Little Sister Recordings)

Despite the Spice Girls having disbanded and released no less than 13 solo albums between them, they still struggle to confirm their worth as solo artists. Well, the two still bothering at least. In that vain, Charlotte Hatherley presents her second solo album – and having permanently parted from Ash, can she finally emerge as the stand-alone artist she’s long promised to be?

For a female working the back catalogue of bloke-rock bastions – however sensitive and multifaceted said material may be – one can only imagine the hazardous build-up of womanly wants could only be contained within Charlotte Hatherley for a limited time. Therefore, where previous side projects from Ash appeared to be a de rigueur oestrogen-emitting valve, The Deep Blue is by comparison a calmer affair.

This seemingly is Charlotte Hatherley: The Diverse Soloist rather than just ‘er out of Ash. And while fans of Grey Will Fade will certainly find that same brand of hefty-bollocked riffs peppered with glittery winks, there’s a great deal more showcased here.

Take, for instance, Dawn Treader, a delicate hymn with overtones of Vespertine-era Bjork. Wounded Sky hints at a similar Earth Mother wakefulness, before slowly soaring into a mass of anthemic thumps atop a layer of gentle noodling. And, to underline the asymmetrical vigour crafted across nine years of Ash, Siberia is the act of wanton vandalism on the way out of a house party to which you weren’t invited.

The simple entertainment facet has undeniably lessened from her previous material, but as a far more noticeably scrupulous piece of work, it’s not something you can hold against her. Sure, you have to dig that bit deeper to find the character. And even when you do, it’s slightly less apparent than you might hope for. But, somehow, you just can’t begrudge it.

It’s evidence of a rock musician capable of surpassing the gender pigeonhole she’s so often jammed into. Perhaps something we’re guilty of ourselves – as a capable musician, it’s safe to say Hatherley had more to offer than the 25% assigned to her as part of Ash. But to assume a veritable chasm of male/female disparity was the cause is just lazy. Therefore, we humbly apologise, donate a metaphorical sum of money to a women’s charity, and give The Deep Blue a sanctified slot in our CD collection.

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