I hear an awful lot of cookie-cutter singer-songwriters, so I have to be careful not to overpraise those who merely don't suck. So I must ask myself, do I respond so enthusiastically to Nicola just because she doesn't suck? Or is she really that good?
Well, I've given it some thought and several listens, and the verdict is in. If her fine but less well produced first albumleft any doubt, this one doesn't: she's that good. This half-hour CD of soulful rock with a touch of Latin spice measures up well not just against her contemporaries on the indie circuit, but against anything today's biggest names are putting out.
A note: "Nicola" is technically a band, since the eponymous singer lends her first name to the project. Much credit goes to her collaborators, especially longtime bassist Jules Rosaly, who also plays some of the guitar parts on the album. But Nicola the singer-guitarist is the center, and the fire inside.
What's The Point opens with a one-two-three punch. "One Little Girl" with its growling 3/4-time attack announces right off that we're in for something unusual and proves to be as good as or better than anything you hear on the radio - if anybody listens to the radio any more - from any blues- or alt-rocker on the scene today. "What's the Point" also rocks hard but has a poppier melody that could easily be as big a hit as Avril Lavigne's overproduced teen-angst anthems. And the title of the wall-of-sound "Bitch" speaks for itself; Nicola's contribution to the literature of I-hate-you blows Meredith Brooks's song by the same title out of the water.
The catchy, dramatic mid-tempo rocker "I Don't Know" features Nicola's voice drenched in political disillusionment, the bitterness almost palpable in her acid tones. There's no better example of her mastery of her material and the seamless fusion of singer, musicians and song. As Yeats put it, "Who can tell the dancer from the dance?";