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Reviews in Brief: Kate Miller-Heidke, Curiouser

If every generation needs its cultish eccentric pop songbird, Aussie warbler Kate Miller-Heidke has to be This Gen’s Model. Her new release Curiouser (Sony/BMG), co-written with guitarist Keir Nuttall, has plenty of goofy vocal swoops and smart-girl attitude to go with the well-blended keyb and guitar work: lovers of this kind of wiggy songcraft will recognize traces of Lene Lovich and Kate Bush in the sound, while some of Miller-Heidke’s lyrics (“I Like You Better When You’re Not Around,” f’rinstance) come close to broaching Kirsty MacColl in the brightly snippy put-down department.

You either dig this kind of material or find yourself thoroughly irritated by its swooping affectation: me, I can’t stop playing it, though whether this onetime opera student will have the staying power of MacColl or devolve into a stuck-on-the-shelves flash like, say, Nina Hagen is an open question. What remains inarguable for now is the sheer catchiness of cuts like “Can’t Shake It,” with its ode to dance floor klutziness and “Mickey”-esque guitar line; the album’s second great piss-off track, “God’s Gift to Women” (“If you’re God’s gift to woman, than she got it wrong.”) and the folksy “Politics in Space,” which slams into the Politics of Hope with strumming acoustic work straight out of The Coca Cola Kid. “Caught in the Crowd” tackles school bullying with a ruefulness that avoids both pity or sentimentality — it’s sung from the PoV of a girl who stepped aside when one of the school misfits is targeted — though the touching track is nearly derailed by keyboarding that's almost a trace too poppy.

With a fraction of restraint (not too much, though, less she mute her distinctive voice), this pop cult Alice could produce something musically transplendent. “I’m a baby boomer’s daughter, and I’m never gonna reach Nirvana,” she sings at one point in “Space.” Ah, but you’re pretty damn close, daughter.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
  • http://www.manalishi.biz Paul Dettman

    Nice review, awesome album, for sure. But I’m not concinved that Caught in the Crowd has a lot to do with school bullying. It’s a true (as it goes) account of something that really did occur, but surely happened to everyone at some point. It’s not a “song about bullying” but a song about knowing who you are, who your friends are, and learning the painful lessons in childhood, wanting to go back and make things right. So much more than bullying, is my tuppence.

  • Corey C.

    Caught her live opening for Ben Folds, she and Nuttall were simply awesome live. Caught in the Crowd is incredible live, very affecting– too bad the track is too over-produced on the CD to have the same emotional impact. However, this is a very, very good CD and her voice (and Nuttall’s playing and energy)are simply sublime. I hope she is here to stay!

  • STM

    Paul Dettman writes: “Not convinced Caught in the Crowd has a lot to do with school bullying.”

    Mate, it actually is.

    I only know because I work for a newspaper in Australia and a colleague interviewed her a few months back in Sydney.

    Miller-Heidke says the song absolutely IS about school bullying … not all about her being bullied, however, but a lot about her own ongoing regret at not having acted in support of a friend who was being bullied.

    However, it is certainly about her own experience of being bullied as well while at high school in her hometown of Brisbane … that’s pronounced “bris-bun”, for our strangely accented second cousins on the other side of the very big and not so peaceful pond.