The former lead singer of the Wild Colonials -- who also lent her vocals to "Breathe," the pop hit from Télépopmusik and a Mitsubishi commercial -- returns with an album that brings to mind Macy Gray and Catatonia's Cerys Matthews. Beginning with a soulful and midtempo groove on "It's Been Done," the singer is quite at home delivering a highbrow pop tune with traces of reggae. "Somebody Got Lucky," which concerns a one-night stand, is a light and rather chipper offering that shows the strength of McCluskey's vocals. It's as if she's the perfect complement to Echo & the Bunnymen lead singer Ian McCulloch. The darker "Love Is Stronger Than Death" is a captivating and barren tune mindful of PJ Harvey's work with John Parish. But the song's intensity rises with each verse, reaching a crescendo that is quite striking. The first true radio-friendly pop nugget is the Southern-tinted "Know It All," with its Keith Richards-esque guitar touches -- subtle but all important. Another strong tune that has single material written all over it is the catchy and punchy "Perfect Girl Eleven." In other instances, it's her fine sultry aura that carries the old-school R&B oozing from "A Thousand Drunken Dreams." "Sleep On It" is possibly the album's sleeper pick, as it has McCluskey carrying it despite the needless string and orchestral textures. She continues to up the quality ante, though, as "Wrong Side" will induce goosebumps with her heartfelt, tender performance. The only downside to the record comes on the rather ordinary "Sucker." Fortunately, "Long Live I" more than atones for this with another stellar, polished downtrodden tune. If only the things we did were as spectacular as this body of work.
The Things We Do Review
by Jason MacNeil