1000 Albums Project

GUEST REVIEW 23

Left of the Middle, by Natalie Imbruglia
Reviewed by Phillip Staines

I started writing this a day or so after I was allocated ‘Left of the Middle’ to review, but I’ve had to keep going back to it as other people’s reviews are so good. How do you make it personal, poingent even, funny, honest and a good read? Hat tip to Craig for doing 3 a day while maintaining the quality.

I did my GCSEs in 1991, on new years eve 1999 I was standing near Tower Bridge watching the fireworks with my wife, who (unbeknownst to us) was pregant with our first child. 90s music is the soundtrack to the most exciting years of my life. Importantly 90s mainstream music was often very good, sure for every Radiohead, Nirvana or Oasis play on daytime Radio 1, there were a few dozen Barbie or Spice girl plays, but there was usually good sprinking of decent tunes on the Evening Session and Rock Show. I got to see Guns n’ Roses at Wembley, Pulp and Paul Weller at the first V festival and the Levellers at deMontfort Hall, good times.

The most played song in the UK from that decade (according to wikipedia) kicks off my album to review.

‘Torn’ looms over the album and its good that its gets out of the way early.

I can see why it got (and still gets) played a lot. Its clips along, Natalie has a nice voice, its not boring or cheesy. The lyrics makes no sense mind, but we can perhaps blame that on translation from the scandenavian original. It doesn’t make me switch off if it appears on the radio, but its not on a playlist either. Its a genuine 90s classic that I don’t think we need to talk about any more, we all know it. Its been played to ubiquity.

Listening to the rest of the album and I’m glad I made some notes as I can’t recall much about it. I (or my wife) bought (or was bought) this album possibly for christmas in 1997 and it got a good few spins in its day. It does nothing badly, but nothing really well either.

It jumps around in styles, from some mild funk and dance, to mild country and mild rock. The only constant is Natalie’s voice, which is nice but she never seems to really exert herself or really convince that she has any passionate belief in what she is singing. Its foot-tapping, hummable and I can recall some of the songs from when CDs were king; ‘Wishing I was there’ and ‘Intuition’ – which are particularly hummable and foot-tapping. I am no musician but I can’t hear too many risks being taken or boundaries being pushed. Its polished, but lacks the edge of a dynamic ‘band’, its all about the singer, everything else is cut to fit and her voice and what she sings are not enough to take it to another level.

Will I listen to any of her other albums? Until this project the rest of her output was unknown to me – there is even a greatest hit(s) album! But yes I might – She might find a distinctive, coherent style. And if the debut album is a bit of a mixed bag that’s ok; if I was producing the first album from someone who got famous playing an apprentice builder on Neighbours, I too might throw a variety of innoffensive stuff at a wall and see what sticks. It’s certainly way easier on the ears than early Kylie.

While perhaps I would have preferred to be given to review some rap I could have moaned about, or some metal to remind me of being a teenager – it was good to be reacquainted with those tracks on the album that are not ‘Torn’. It took me back to a good place in my life.

Standout track is ‘Impressed’ – its scores the highest on the foot-tapping scale.

6/10

All togther now: ‘I thought I saw a man brought to life …’

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