Charlotte Hatherley

Grey Will Fade

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Having joined the successful Irish band Ash in 1997 as bass player, in 2004 Charlotte Hatherley felt it was time to attempt a first album of her own. The results justified her feeling that her own ideas were more expansive than the mostly straight-ahead rock approach of Ash. Supporting her in her self-assurance were two well established musicians (known from collaborations with PJ Harvey and many others), Eric Drew Feldman (playing keyboards and producing), and Rob Ellis (on drums). Moreover, the album was recorded not, as one would expect, in Britain, but in Los Angeles. Although the album proves that Hatherley is a talent in her own right, it does get off to a shaky start. It begins with a bow to "Kim Wilde" (a slightly unsettling surprise in itself, coming from someone with more originality and a more expressive vocal talent!), a rambling, very fussy, convoluted song that doesn't seem to succeed in taking the listener anywhere in particular (more like: "what was that about?!"), and second song "Rescue Plan" also doesn't serve as what that title suggests -- the album still threatens to sink into a fog of tunelessness. The dramatic turnaround comes with third song "Paragon," a seamless, exhilarating composition of clarity and wit, reminiscent of the dashing elegance of early Queen albums. One more rather aimless song about "Summer" fogs things up one last time, then "Down" shows how deftly Hatherley can handle a minor chord masterpiece, and "Stop" shows that she can balance a harsh rock jumble just on the verge of chaos and keep things exciting. Quality control stays in evidence right to the end of the album, with "Where I'm Calling From" meriting a special mention: a trajectory of melodic and lyrical ideas that recalls nothing less than David Bowie's "Space Oddity." As in the title track at the end of the album, there are even flourishes of early Genesis-like elegance, although Grey Will Fade is in fact rather sparsely arranged (and mainly driven by Hatherley's guitar playing). In short, although it sometimes trips up through a kind of over-enthusiasm, this album is indeed the debut of a rather maverick talent.

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