Lonely at the Top

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Hermine's one full album in her varied career had a slightly troubled birth, suffering a round of rejections from many labels before appearing in 1984. Little surprise why -- at a time when the original flush of punk and post-punk independent adventurism was starting to consolidate into more comfortable channels, Lonely at the Top was quite unusual even by its own standards. With the assistance of a passel of sympathetic musicians playing just about everything under the sun, the album shows that Hermine's earlier moody restraint turned into a new assertiveness matched with equally striking arrangements that swirl lounge elements, arch art pop, "world" music as broadly understood, nods to free jazz, and much more into a striking brew. The combination of slinking percussion and strident saxophone on the opening "The Story of a Ridiculous Dummy" sets the tone excellently, while calling one of the most nervous, unsettled songs "Sleepy Feeling" is playing with expectations at its finest. The covers themselves range from Neil Sedaka and Yoko Ono (an inspired nod to an equally unique artist via "Death of Samantha") to a joyful, upbeat version of a traditional Mauritian song, "Noir, Noir, Noir." Perhaps the closest thing to this album at the time might be the Creatures' brilliant Feast, but Lonely at the Top is its own unique creation, making her decision to concentrate on other artistic areas since the music world's loss.

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