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The War Against Intelligence

John Williamson's web stuff

Month

September 2004

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Charlotte Hatherley
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow.

There is no question that Charlotte Hatherley’s addition to the Ash line-up substantially bolstered their sound and appeal, but her first ever solo gig offers few indicators that she is ready to step out from her stage right position.

Indeed, the slightly messy sound and joyless demeanour of all five participants (surely more than first night nerves) did something of a disservice to Hatherley’s album, “Grey Will Fade,” which hints at a credible songwriting talent, albeit one which makes few incursions into new territory.

The narrow range of musical influences (think nineties’ guitar bands) is something of a millstone, and despite the dazzling array of guitars lined up at the back of the stage, there is little that can be done to excite within the musical and stylistic limitations they impose.

The playing is competent but lacking any real lightness of touch, and Hatherley makes for a surprisingly uncomfortable frontperson. Her voice is thin to begin with, but swamped by the dominant guitars and drums, this is more akin to Graham Coxon’s first hesitant shows outside of Blur than Kim Deal’s majestic escape from the Pixies.

If this paints an underwhelming picture, there is at least some hope for the future. “Kim Wilde,” “Paragon,” and the piano-driven, “Summer” are all excellent pop songs, at least the equal of recent Ash singles, and “Bastardo” offers a witty take on a disastrous one-night stand. “Down” is also a welcome break from the otherwise one-paced set.

If the songs are convincing, this remains a hastily conceived and routinely executed performance that would benefit hugely from anything resembling dynamics, warmth or charisma – the characteristics which differentiate between a day job and a part-time indulgence.

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Johnny Ramone: R.I.P.

An obituary – here

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