Nadine Shah: An artist who’s debut album quietly slipped under the radar in 2013. Despite receiving generally positive reviews from those aware of it’s existence, you could easily be forgiven for thinking her 2015 release, Fast Food, is in fact her debut album. She’s been garnering significant hype and attention during 2014, much of which she’s carried through and built upon into 2015, filling in for an ill John Hopkins at The 6 Music Festival – a particular highlight of this period.
The general consensus on her debut album, Love Your Dum And Mad, was that of strong influences from the likes of Nick Cave, and a particular likeness to PJ Harvey, with a dark and twisting tale of her love and despair of the past relationships displayed and carried out in the future. Touching on moments of the past with almost a mournful sting, it’s opener ‘Aching Bones’ carrying despairing piano pricks and dark drones.
Her new album, Fast Food, however looks to move somewhat away from the mannerisms of it’s predecessor, keeping the personal flare that gave the debut it’s inner vengeance but moving on to slightly brighter horizon. There’s sunlight peeping through the storm clouds, a hope dotted somewhere beneath the ongoing pain.
Maintaining the beautiful darkness that makes her music so fascinating was key and it’s something Shah has gone to great lengths to keep, pianos make way for dark guitar riffs throughout most of this record, giving it a fuller, more swamping sound. The title track relieves us of the complexity record one insisted on, introducing painfully sharp guitars from the outset. It’s a deeper yet streamlined, unmistakably Shah vibe which continues into the psych-trip of ‘Fool’. Surely dissecting your toxic love life is more fun with raging guitar streaks and dark bass? The answer from Shah is a defiant yes. It’s important to note however, despite the album being quintessentially about past relationship difficulties, it’s far from being loved up and rebels against being soppy. It’s clear that Shah has gone to great lengths to avoid the stereotypes that come with writing a sour stab at past mistakes and love gone wrong.
From start to finish she delivers her fury in many different guises. ‘Matador’ is a hushed up slow-burner, fascinatingly dark and mysterious, it forces several plays on you before revealing it’s secrets, and bursting into life with harsh riffage and a soundtrack-esque feel. Next is ‘Nothing Else To Do’, carrying twangy after-dark acoustics and Shah’s regretful crooning safely into the middle passage, before things slow down for a period. ‘Washed Up’ turns the pace once more, with energetic drumming at the forefront providing strength to the sound whilst not masking the beauty of Shah’s vocals. Shah then returns the favor to the keys that have stood by her side for most of her career so far, with a beautiful piano led track, ‘Big Hands’. An atmospheric slow build that ignites upon it’s closure in equal short bursts of noise and power.
The record’s final offering, ‘Living’, is experimental Shah at her finest, synths and throbbing bass support her storytelling nicely building an infectious rhythm with additional eery guitar tweaks helping to keep with the overall feel of the record whilst offering up something just a little outside the Fast Food box.
Overall though, Fast Food is a far more fascinating record than her debut, it’s complexity almost demands a third and fourth play which in itself is a compliment to the artist. One thing is clear, Nadine Shah is now coming into her own as a songwriter and “the difficult 2nd album” curse will have to look elsewhere for it’s next victim, as Fast Food angrily thrusts two fingers into the eyes of any of it’s critics. Strikingly spiteful with a romantic tenderness, quite simply a record that is anything but predictable.
Fast Food is out now via Apollo Records.