Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination

by D R Pautsch Rating:8 Release Date:2017-08-25

For those unfamiliar with Nadine Shah then you are missing out.  Shah is a vocalist full of sultry delivery, keyboard and drum infused melody and more spike than an army of porcupines.  On her third album she has swapped her personal lyrics and moved into the political arena.  Shah, being half Pakistani and half Norwegian but with a full blown accent that can only belong to someone from the North East of England watched the reaction of holidaymakers in Kos, when their breaks were disrupted by refugees, with horror and decided to make it the central theme of Holiday Destination.  This is a fact made clear from the end of the first song on the album Place Like This.  If you missed it in the lyrics, the music gives way to a chant of ‘refugees are welcome here’ from a rally in London.  Shah is not one to back down from a confrontation and this whole album is in your face and nowhere more so than on the title track where the caustic lyrics spit out the repeated question ‘how are you gonna sleep tonight’ at the holidaymakers that caused Shah so much consternation.  This is done to a back drop of a song which is a melodic as it is unsettling with its guitar break down which sounds like it comes from a haunted house.

Not all songs are of a political bent though as 2016 proves with its world weary self-analytical lyrics and basic but almost funky guitar bass and atmospherics.  However, this song is like a child approaching an electric socket.  It can’t quite resist putting its finger on the political button and when it decries ‘the fascist in the White House’ you are back to the political force Shah has become in recent months, where she has written and sung about politics with such feeling you can feel her anger. 

The whole album is a jarring and yet totally melodic and welcome.  Out The Way is an almost jazz infused number with its chorus backlit by fuzz, sax, dirt and grime.  Listening to this you are certain that Shah is in love with the sadly departed Gil Scott Heron and perhaps that is a better parallel for this album than the lazy P.J Harvey similarities that dog Shah.  Her partnership with Ben Hiller has hit a rich vein on this album and perhaps the only criticism is that the sound is not a progression from its predecessor, the excellent Fast Food.  The stark difference though is that the drawling, slower numbers on that album were the highlight whereas here Yes Men and similar dark and broody numbers glower with a little less menace than when Shah vents her spleen fully and with intent.  Jolly Sailor ends proceedings and is a product of her earlier writings.  It is a melancholy note that barely moves out of second gear but is fitting with the mood music on the rest of the album.  It is a sultry number with a fuzz of electronics that add menace and melody at the same time.

Shah has never been nominated for a Mercury, which is baffling as her output is certainly worthy of such.  She has never hit the headlines with her music and yet she should.  There is more here to love and worship than in many soulless releases that get such acclaim.  Any thinking that turning into a political singer is a calculated career move disappears instantly here.  Edwyn Collins once sang ‘Too many protest singers, not enough protest song’.  In days such as these he would decry the lack of protest singers as well.  Thank goodness artists like Shah are willing to rock the boat with lyrics, anger and more than a fair share of great songs.   She has definitely moved into new territory here and listening back to her previous efforts this is as good as anything before and quite possibly her strongest full length set to date.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars