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Music Review

Sharleen Spiteri: 'Melody'

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Sharleen Spiteri: 'Melody'
Released on Monday, Jul 14 2008

Sharleen Spiteri describes Melody, her solo debut, as her "ultimate personal fantasy record". If that's the case, the Texas singer has clearly been dreaming about lush, melodramatic pop music from the fifties and sixties: Motown, Bacharach, The Shangri-Las, Serge Gainsbourg. It's hardly a revelation that Spiteri likes this sort of thing: she's been homaging Motown ('Black Eyed Boy'), channelling Marvin Gaye ('Say What You Want') and sampling Gainsbourg ('Guitar Song') with Texas for years.

But "going sixties" is also a savvy move commercially, of course. Spiteri's long had her eye on the ball, drafting in hip hitmakers like Dallas Austin and Xenomania to maintain the momentum Texas built with 1997's White On Blonde album, and it's surely no coincidence that she's chosen to make this album now. After all, Melody has plenty in common, at least superficially, with the defining record of the last few years, Amy Winehouse's Back To Black, and the biggest-selling album of the year to date, Duffy's Rockferry.

Melody lacks the contemporary edge of Back To Black - there's no talk of "f***ery" or carpet burns sustained while giving oral sex here; nor does it feature anything quite as epic as the title track from Rockferry. But there's no denying that Spiteri has attacked her brief with gusto. Largely self-produced, and mostly co-written with Texas bandmate Johnny McElhone, this is an authentic, affectionate take on the pop sounds of the fifties and sixties, an homage that's sympathetic to the very last finger-snap.

It's also an album of likable, well-crafted pop songs, which is exactly what we've come to expect from Spiteri. The likes of 'Stop I Don't Love You Anymore' and lead single 'All The Times I Cried' feature terrific melodies - as the album's title would seem to promise - and 'Don't Keep Me Waiting' is a truly lovely girl-group pastiche. In fact, the only misstep is Spiteri's ill-advised attempt to play Nancy Sinatra on 'I'm Gonna Haunt You', which proves that some fantasies should stay in the mind.

However, Melody isn't just Spiteri's "ultimate personal fantasy record"; it's also her break-up album. Nearly all these songs deal with the dissolution of her relationship with magazine editor Ashley Heath, the father of her daughter. Spiteri spends large chunks of the album telling us he "isn't the one" and serving up surprisingly bitter one-liners. "Something inside just died," she sings at one point, "it was you". But the songs are so polished, and Spiteri's vocals so sweet and controlled, that the bleakness of the lyrics isn't immediately obvious.

That's the thing about Melody - it's pretty rather than gritty. It's a bit conservative too, choosing to replicate the sounds of the period instead of trying to do anything creative or adventurous with them. Nevertheless, on its own, somewhat limited terms this thoroughly accomplished album should be considered a job well done.


> Click here for our recent interview with Sharleen Spiteri

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