The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews

Reviewed by Ken Lieck, August 3, 2001, Music

Kirsty MacColl

Tropical Brainstorm (Instinct)

Despite the cruel irony of its title (MacColl was decapitated by a reckless speedboat in Mexico last year shortly after completing the album), Tropical Brainstorm is as delightful as anything to come from the underrated English singer and songwriter. Though this is supposedly her "Cuban" album, MacColl is as ever a master of variety, the songs "flavored" with the sounds and rhythms of the Tropics, but in no way crippled by genre. The circumstances of the album tend to highlight the creepy bits, but MacColl was always about beauty mixed with a hint of terror, or at least the unsavory. Here, she frightens us in such wonders as "Treachery" (written with hitmaker Graham Gouldman of 10CC and "For Your Love" fame) wherein she stalks a fan for daring to by a CD by another woman, while in current KGSR favorite "In These Shoes?" she affords us both laughs and a few starts in a tale about impulsiveness -- or the lack of it. Being a mother of two did nothing to dull the edge of MacColl's hurt/hopeful songs of love and lust. As far as the singer's performance, Brainstorm finds the former Stiff Records signee in mature form, her voice as cyanide sweet as ever, minus the element of novelty heard in Tracey Ullman's well-known version of MacColl's "They Don't Know." And she plays steel guitar, too! Tropical Brainstorm (brrr! That title has got to go!) is quite possibly the best album from a true world-class talent (second generation -- her father was UK folk legend Ewan MacColl), though one could say that about each and every album she released since before her duet with Shane MacGowan on the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York," which brought her the only real attention she ever got in America. She deserved better.


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