Earlier this year, I wrote a retrospective on Shakespears Sister (link), and though in recent months I have made a concerted effort to stay on top of music news (that does not involved gossip and people’s favorite food on tour), I really had no idea that Siobhan Fahey was about to resurrect the Shakespears Sister moniker and release a new album. “Songs from the Red Room” (16 November 2009) came right out of left field, and word of the album had me all giddy, as I relived my life during the Sister brush with pop success in the early 90s. Then I remembered two things: this has been a year (actually two in a row) of veterans for the most part not meeting their potential and in many cases leaving me disappointed (these albums I did not write about). The second thing I realized immediately was the lack of fanfare about this release. Though it is touted as the first studio album since 2004, remember the third album, “#3,” may have been released in 2004, it was written between 1995-1997. (The label did not want to release the album, and it took Fahey many years to get the rights to the songs back.) As for “Songs from the Red Room,” I had no idea what this album was going to be like.
The credits read like a who’s who in music: Whitey, Jagz Kooner, Death in Vegas, Marco Pirroni and Terry Hall. And of course, what many fans and critics are going to point out is that Marcella Detroit is not on the album. (Detroit and Fahey, as the rumor goes, have not spoken since their creative collaboration dissolved in the early 90s.) But Siobhan Fahey deserves to have her name first among the list. More than the fact that this is her album, it should be noted that Fahey started two of the words most successful bands: girl band Bananarama and sythnrock band Shakespears Sister. And on “Song from the Red Room,” Fahey sports out every trick she ever learned and threw a few new ones into the mix. There is definitely a feel that these songs were not written in one recording session, but rather over a few years. And this gives the album a depth and breath that makes it difficult to pigeonhole. Furthermore, this album works as both individual songs and as a collection. What you get are tightly constructed songs, with elements of synthrock, synthpop, indie rock, and dance.
The first single was “Bitter Pill.” Released for the first time in its original “guitar-format,” this song has already been recorded (covered) by the Pussycat Dolls, which they renamed “I Want You Back.” Then there is the second single, “Pulsatron” (Whitey Mix), which is as urgent and relevant as all of the other indie rock out there. Though I do not think that Fahey was aiming to be “indie” or anything for that matter, her eclectic voice and savvy arrangements should really turn the heads of these youngsters starting out. Furthermore, though all the songs on the surface are glittery, seductive, and/or enchanting, scratch the surface and you will find Fahey’s woebegone world unfurls. Another shocking surprise on the album is “Hot Room,” a Linda Lamb cover. Though the cover isn’t miles away from the original, it is significantly different in atmosphere. Very little people can do sexy and sinister at the same time with such ease and allure as Siobhan Fahey. But the one track that I am stuck on stupid over is “It’s a Trip.” This is really synthpop for the new millennium. Fahey uses every trick of synthpop, while avoiding any cliché and sonic resemblance to the 80s.
Album by veteran? Check. Good album by veteran? Check. One of the top albums of 2009? Check. My fear about “Songs from the Red Room” is that it will be ignored by both mainstream and underground. Siobhan Fahey has been around the block in a music industry that favors young and/or new artists, and proven veterans (especially those coming back after a long hiatus) are quite often ignored. Regardless, Fahey proves that an artist does not have to rely on past monuments to write and record new treasures. Shakespears Sister lives on! And “Songs from the Red Room” is yet another testament to the fact that veterans in the music industry still have valuable gems to contribute. Do not allow the lack of hype about this album to dissuade you from listening to it. This is top notch; this is tomorrow’s classic Shakespears Sister.
1. Pulsatron (Whitey Mix)
2. Bad Blood
3. Was It Worth It? – with Terry Hall
4. It’s a Trip
5. Hot Room
6. A Man in Uniform
7. You’re Alone
8. Bitter Pill
10. You’re Not Yourself
11. A Loaded Gun
12. Bad Blood (Jagz Kooner Mix – AT Edit)
13. Pulsatron (Gully Mix)
14. Cold (Death In Vegas Mix)
15. Someone Else’s Girl – exclusive bonus track, iTunes
Keep up with Shakespears Sister/Siobhan Fahey at her homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
Here is the video for “Pulsatron” (Whitey Mix) from Fahey’s YouTube Channel: ShakespearsSisterTV.