BAT FOR LASHES: TWO SUNS (2009)
Fur And Gold was one of those curious debuts that make any attempts at further predictions totally futile. It had its moments of beauty mixed with its moments of cringe, and, all over the place, there seemed to be potential waiting to be tapped into. Lyrics too silly? People don't get born as lyricists, they mature. Melodies too simplistic? But it's not the complexity that counts, it's the spiritual power. What mattered most was that Fur And Gold was clearly the creation of an easily influenced, but essentially free-wandering spirit. Meaning that Natasha Khan's next move could be just about anything. For all we know, she could start playing minimalistic reworkings of Ornette Coleman's material, arranged as duets for sitar and washboard.
Alas, Two Suns finds her concentrating on her weakest skill: Artsiness. Almost completely banning tight pop frameworks from sight, she is almost exclusively writing in the «moody» vein now, turning into what some have already christened a «poor man's Björk» — without insinuating that she actually uses the real Björk as a working model, but she aims her ball at more or less the same lane, while scoring — quite predictably — ten times less.
The press release for the album has been quoted by almost every reviewer, because who could stay away from lines like «Two Suns addresses the philosophy of the self and duality, examining the need for both chaos and balance, for both love and pain, in addition to touching on metaphysical ideas concerning the connections between all existence»? There were even some people who took that seriously — the lucky few who survived the reading process — and started discussing the important changes of perspective that aspiring young philosopher Natasha Khan brought into our common understanding of the metaphysical structure of the universe. (Roll over, Kierkegaard, tell Heidegger the news).
The trouble is, we could all just close our eyes on this pseudo-neo-romantic bullshit and enjoy the music — if it weren't for the fact that Bat For Lashes takes it more than just seriously: with each of these songs, she deliberately wedges her hollow messages into your head. Two Suns still shows signs of true talent, but it is betrayed every step of the way, as she hangs it out to dry, neglecting music in favour of ridiculously overblown brainwashing.
Crowning it all with her «invention» of an «alter ego» called «Pearl», which the press release describes as «a destructive, self-absorbed, blonde, femme fatale of a persona who acts as a direct foil to Khan's more mystical, desert-born spiritual self». I particularly like that they did not forget to use the word «desert-born» in this context. Doesn't it sound fantastic? Overwhelming? Desert-born! (Then again, I guess if Denmark can be a prison, London — in which she was born — can certainly be a desert).
If you make a really strong effort and manage to completely ignore the lyrics (including the wretched press release), some of these tracks may eventually redeem themselves. Unfortunately, this almost never concerns the brooding rhythmless ballads, whose boring piano non-hooks, near-permanent echoey hoo-hoos and aah-aahs, and occasionally varying background instrumentation never really gel into anything special. But once she drags out the bass, things sometimes change for the better: 'Sleep Alone' is a pretty little nightmare on the border of Middle East muzak and dark disco, the lead single 'Daniel' is no Elton John, but still tolerable, and 'Pearl's Dream' has the catchiest, if a bit annoying, chorus on the entire record.
The jackpot is hit on the last tune, when, out of the shadows, the one and only Scott Walker suddenly arises to duet with the pretty dualistic girl on 'The Big Sleep'... for about thirty seconds in total, before falling back into slumber (as she says herself, "Not even out of my dress and already my voice is fading"). How on Earth she managed to lure the man, a well-known recluse, into the studio, I don't know and I'm not sure I do want to know, but he does manage, during these thirty seconds, to turn the tables completely and provide the record with a non-fitting conclusion that is, in itself, more or less worth the entire remaining length of Two Suns. But who wants to listen to fourty minutes of bad music for one single magical "How can it be..."?
In short, this is very, very lame. Amazon.com warns you (or, if it doesn't, it should) that if you love this album, you probably enjoy reading Castaneda and Coelho, dressing up as Xena (regardless of gender), and jumping off twelve-storey buildings during your lunch breaks. If, however, you just love good music, buy this lady a ticket to a Pipettes concert for a cure. Confucius did warn us, after all, that «Thought without learning is perilous», and so is this album — I may respect the effort, but if the effort is wasted like that, what can I do? Thumbs down.
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Check "Two Suns" (MP3) on Amazon