In a sentence:
Addressing important issues on gender expectations with style and wit, ‘Kitchen Sink’ is Nadine Shah’s finest album to date.
Active for several years but eventually getting wider recognition and exposure in 2017 for her Mercury Prize-nominated third album Holiday Destination – which really ought to have won outright – Nadine Shah belatedly earned her rightful reputation as one of Britain’s finest songwriters because she directly tackles societal issues in a very empathetic way. That last record, for example, addressed Europe’s refugee crisis in part by drawing upon her own experiences of identity and discrimination (Shah is a Muslim woman of Norwegian and Pakistani heritage). More than any of her previous records, her latest album Kitchen Sink is a more immediate and personal document, confronting the often overwhelming nature of societal expectations of women in their mid-thirties – to have a career, have a family, keep a home, and collapse all those financial and emotional achievements into a shrinking timeframe.
the issues with dark humour and immense compassion so striking that anyone can understand.
The form of Kitchen Sink is an absolutely perfect vehicle for communicating
the content that she wants you to hear. Rather than adopting the chest-thumping,
post-punk urgency that characterised Holiday Destination, the songs here
make their point with more subtlety and less immediacy – something that reflects
the insidious yet all-pervading of those pressures towards convention and domesticity
that can wear down even the most determined of minds. You can also see this in
the record’s lurid front cover, evoking conventions of females as domestic
goddesses and hostesses, as if asking you to consider how much women’s roles
have really changed.
single ‘Ladies For Babies
(Goats For Love)’ is easily the most direct expression of Kitchen Sink’s
themes, with brilliant lyrics like “He wants his lady / To be
a lady / To care less, be hairless / All he wants in fairness / Is a baby”
poking at the male psyche, but
is a bit of a red herring for the rest of the record. Quite a bit of Kitchen
Sink recalls early PJ Harvey in its stripped-back austerity. The insistent,
unsettled demeanour of ‘Trad’,
for example, reflects the anxieties of its protagonist wondering whether she
ought to freeze her eggs, while ‘Kite’ is ghostly and
spartan. Title track ‘Kitchen
Sink’ is about trying to block out society’s expectations, mentioning “curtain
twitchers” and a “gossiping, boring bunch of bitches”, and is
probably the best illustration of the album at its most characteristic.
often-overlooked element of humour in Nadine Shah’s music is here too – the sarcasm
in the delivery of “I am aware of the passing of time” in ‘Dillydally’, concerning
all those warnings of biological clocks ticking, is pointed and withering.
Opener ‘Club Cougar’,
whose guitars are treated to resemble blasts of horns, is also playful and
subversive, as is the strapping, swinging beat underpinning the faster-paced ‘Walk’ (“running
gauntlets / swerving perverts”) and the post-punk / bar-room blues
collision of recent single ‘Buckfast’.
given it a few listens, it becomes clear that Kitchen Sink is Nadine
Shah’s most accomplished and important album so far. Every track is carefully executed
with economy and flair, with Shah pulling off a balancing act between
addressing important issues of ingrained expectations of domestic,
interpersonal relationships while having tremendous fun to boot. (9/10) (Ed
Listen to Kitchen Sink by Nadine Shah here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: Ed Biggs, Infectious, Kitchen Sink, Nadine Shah
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