Solitary party groover
Happiest on her own, Isabel Monteiro is but one leg of the tripod that is Drugstore. Alastair Mabbott talked her into having a ' “quiet night in.
Brazil. you could argue. has been given pretty short shrift by the international pop music marketplace. True, Sepultura. like many others before them. have found that the language of metal knows no barriers. But megastores worldwide tick over quite happily
‘ without regular Red Cross parcels of Brazilian pop. Nevertheless. in the course of 180 gigs last year. London trio Drugstore. fronted by ex-pat lsabel Monteiro. found no shortage oftakers for their
gorgeous. idiosyncratic torch songs.
Their eponymous debut album was one of the most cherished of I995. thanks to Drugstore‘s two secret . weapons: the diminutive lsabel. with a voice as warm and seasoned as oak-matured whisky; and the band‘s collective ability to plug into the directness of blues or country (with a little input from the Mary Chain and Pixies) without the drawback of years spent slavishly studying how to play it. The combination of elements make Drugstore an intimate listening experience - perhaps on a par with a night Che: - Monteiro having a good heart-to-heart over a strong
Drugstore get ahead with a hat but inevitably carpet~bound beverage.
Nights in arc Isabel‘s speciality. apprtmriately enough fora woman who wrote a song called ‘Solitary Patty Groover'. ‘l thrive on isolation.‘ she insists. ‘l hate going out.‘ Varioust described as ‘one ofthe most alive people i know‘, ‘a force of nature‘ and ‘the sweetest and nastiest person I've ever met'. lsabel has such high expectations of others that she just knows she'll end up on her own eventually. Perhaps all this splendid isolation is a way of getting herself in practice for the day.
That first album. she agrees. was very introspective. ‘I spent about a year in my bedroom writing those songs. Touring with the band forced me to go out there a lot more. and i think it changed me a little bit as a person. and I wanted the second album to reflect
it will be early next year before we hear the results. Until then. we have to make do with the bruising current single. ‘Mondo Cane'. But even before its completion. lsabel has given up trying to contain her excitement. ‘l feel like I‘m a mum and I can see the baby's head coming out. and l’m like, “Fucking now. look at that. it‘s brilliant!“ But I'm so obviously biased. and it's not even finished yet.‘
As might be deduced from the raw emotions on their debut. Drugstore are a tight and volatile trio. and. with lsabel and drumming Philosophy graduate Mike Chylinski being ex-Iovers. and guitarist Daron
The combination of elements make Drugstore an intimate listening experience - perhaps on a par with a night chez Monteiro having a good heart-to-heart over a strong but inevitably carpet-bound beverage.
Robinson subsequently easing his way into the group dynamics. at very intense band to be a part of. ‘There‘s a lot ofgood times and a lot of dreadful
times as well.‘ she says. ‘l'm a pretty emotional person. so is Michael and so is Daron. so there’s a lot of tension. I don‘t know if it's to do with being like a triangle. i always feel that the day Joan Collins publishes her biography. it'll pale in comparison with
‘The way I write is bizarre.‘ she says. beginning a Kristin Hersh-like confession. ‘l’m sure there's people out there doing research into that. ‘cause it's totally subconscious. I always feel like I throw the songs up. i don‘t know where they come from. The lines come ready-made. In one sense it‘s exciting. on the other hand I‘m always at the mercy ofthis subconscious thing that l have no control of.’
Does that mean that lyrics arise which not only surprise her — ‘()h. fuck. man!‘ she explodes. anticipating the drift — but that she would prefer to have nothing to do with? ‘Deﬁnitely. l come up with a lot of bizarre things. I don't know who lives inside my head . . . but I wouldn‘t want to meet them.’ Drugstore play The Venue. Edinburgh. Fri 8; King 'Iilliv. ('I/usgow. Sal 9.
Stark in the park
Beth Orton’s sombre, folky tones have already graced tracks by the Chemical Brothers, lied Snapper and William Orbit. Unlike other dance/folk combos (don’t call it folkdance!) Everything But The Girl or Beck, Orton’s first musical ventures were in dance. ‘Oance music used to scare me a bit, but then i got really into it. It just got my imagination somehow. Oance music touches on something you can’t put into words.’ But then she got a chance to do just that: putting words to dance tracks. William Orbit saw her in a play and
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invited her to try reading on a number. it ended up as a song. ‘l’d never sung before - I had no aspirations to be a singer,’ she says, as if still slightly surprised by this skill.
With the Bed Snapper and Chemical collaborations following quickly, it was only then that Orton taught herself the guitar and started writing songs. Being spotted by Andy Weatherall at a pub gig led to a number of collaborations on her debut album Trailer Park. If it seems strange that a folkie with an acoustic guitar should be of such interest to the dance fraternity, then you can’t have heard Orton’s singing, one of those graveyard voices, haunting and keen that, unlike many vocalists, lends depth rather than gloss to the dance grooves.
Trailer Park runs a gamut of different styles, but the tracks that
work best are the darker numbers, be they stark acoustic ballads (like her doomy version of the lionettes’ ‘I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine,’ or her own ‘Oon’t Need A iieason’) or the Weatherall-produced dancier numbers. Word has it that her record company advised her to include some lighter numbers, but the resultant janeg folk-pop on tracks like ‘llve As You Bream’ constitute the album’s least effective moments.
What’ll the Chemical Brothers fans make of it? “They’re probably gonna hate it,’ says Orton lightly. ‘I like the eerieness more than I like the light, but those lighter tracks were lust the things i tried out. I’m writing a lot and playing a lot, so I’m just up for the next one now.’ (Toby Manning)
Beth Orton supports The Beautiful South at Barrowland, Glasgow, The 5 Nov.
The List l-l4 Nov 1996 45