Isobel Campbell possibly occupies the same peculiar position that Einar did in The Sugarcubes. While Ms Campbell may not holler lobotomised gibberish or spend her time in search of pub brawls, like Einar she’s simultaneously cited as her parent band’s frustrating weakness and its very essence.
With no escape here from Campbell’s barely audible whisper, this album will confirm for detractors at least, that ‘twee’ is the ultimate put down. Yet there’s also a darker and much more brooding atmosphere than is normally associated with Hello Kitty lunchboxes and flying a bright kite out in the park. ‘Partner In Crime’ and ‘There Was Magic, Then’, for instance, are magnificently windswept, recalling the baroque grandeur of Lee Hazlewood, or hinting at Ennio Morricone’s dramatic film scores. Even on more typically delicate diversions, such as ‘Fallen From Grace’, the mood is intensely sad and bewitching. Nevertheless, it’s not all wintry bleakness either. ‘Sister Woman’ is a frothy country-soul jaunt that’s probably too cute for Rancid fans, while ‘Solace For Pain’ chimes brightly with keening pop. Even though Isobel is extending her range, ‘Swansong For You’ won’t eclipse the rehearsed complaints. Nonetheless, Ms Campbell still has a good deal more charm than any of Einar Sugarcube’s shrieking moon howls.