Tanita Tikaram reviewed (below), plus the John Rae collective (page 26) and violinist Nigel Kennedy
LISTINGS: ROCK 23 JAZZ 36 FOLK 37 CLASSICAL 38
Paths of Glory
Craig McLean pierces the mystique of Basingstoke’s New Age troubadour.
Combining critiques of an artist’s music with their personality is neither fair nor (usually) constructive. The Stone Roses, for example, are vacant louts yet this never detracts from the intensity of their music. But in the case of Tanita Tikaram we’ll sod convention - what’s she really like? After all, coming from the furrowed-brow, bedroom contemplation tradition of yer average singer-songwriter, Tanita’s innermost thoughts are the stuff that hit singles (‘Good Tradition’), three-million-selling albums (Ancient Heart) and fourteen weeks at Number One in Norway are made of.
If truth be told, Tanita Tikaram is a posh kid who, if male, would be duffed up. As it is, Tanita is female, and the only apparent side-effect is looking uncannily like two pop stars — one fat and dead, the other greasy and brain-dead. Work that one out for yourself, kids.
Tanita is precocious, where precocious means annoying. Her oft-touted route from imminent academia at Manchester University to a fast deal with WEA is boring and too pat by half. We want heartbreaking tales of years slogging round seedy pubs, endless demo tapes, life on the breadline,
general doom and despair. lnstead, we have a girl with a caramel voice, a knack for the guitar and the odd tune, and for whom destiny meant compact disc sales calculated in millions.
And thus is she marketed: a thirtysomething soundtrack for tender, clever types. Like most tender, clever types, Tanita is hopeless on stage. An early appearance at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall was notable only for Tanita’s clear desire to be somewhere else, like a toilet where she could chuck her guts without people staring at her. Two years and a world tour later, as seen in her recent Wogan appearance, Tanita would still rather spend time perusing bookshelves or being sensitive under a tree. Still, she has said of
touring, ‘I just love it. There‘s nothing really like it, you know.‘
It is this angle, common to all ‘troubadours’, that is the Tikaram leitmotiv. So, her publicity pack consists of an interview in Q, where Tanita is presented as a rambling, empty-headed, pretentious pseudo-intellectual, whose career has been shrewdly manipulated by a coven of agents, record company personnel and producers. The last thing she would call herself is a bimbo; but from where I’m sitting. . .
The Sweet Keeper, Tanita’s second album, is released this week. The cover shots — our heroine looking, in turn, quizzical, bemused and enigmatic— are aggravating enough. Slip the needle into the groove (or the laser into the thingummy) and you’re off, slipping into your own Elysian stupor. The Sweet Keeper sends you places - usually to sleep — as the songs slip by, heralded by a plaintive ﬂute, violin or acoustic guitar, egged on by Tanita’s mellow pronouncements. Nothing is offensive, nothing is stimulating. ‘It All Came Back Today‘ is bare enough to have a pleasant, lulling effect, while the single, ‘We Almost Got it Together‘, just about verges on the brash. These aside, The Sweet Keeper is an album, and Tanita is an album artist, intent on creating complete ‘sound environments’.
This same environment is the perfect breeding ground for more unquestioning adoration from Tanita Tikaram’s fans. The readers of Q will love it, Saturday afternoon Radio One will love it, and the second world tour will be a series ofsell-out preachings to the converted. And be prepared for huge cut-outs in your local record store of a young lass from Basingstoke — or is that a dead rocker from Memphis, or a literary-fixated greaser from Glasgow? Whoever, it‘s a chilling prospect.
I DllE DAVE that was announced alter our ‘Book llow' column was stuck to the page is a gig by ‘The Killer' Jeny Lee Lewis, who plays at the Usher Hall on 13 April. Sublect ol a superb 'Arena' profile recently. Lewis has perhaps chosen this moment to tour to live down the questionable
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.ist 9- 22 February 1990 25