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Music Review

Diana Vickers: 'Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree'

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Diana Vickers 'Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree'
Released on Monday, May 3 2010

It won't have escaped your attention that here at DS we're quite fond of Diana Vickers - and from the sales of her debut single 'Once', it's clear that we're not the only ones. Chucking out a one-off pop hit is one thing though, but sustaining that charm over the course of an album is quite another. The early signs were good - Vickers has famously taken plenty of time to get the talent and tunes together, assembling a supporting cast that includes Ellie Goulding, Lightspeed Champion (Dev Hynes), Nerina Pallot, Starsmith, Cathy Dennis and longtime Björk collaborator Guy Sigsworth. And guess what... the claw-handed girl from Blackburn with the Marmite™ voice has pulled it off.

Almost as if to prove that it's a proper pop album, Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree is frontloaded with the guitar-heavy slam of the Big Hit Single and a couple of likely follow-ups. 'Remake Me & You' out-pops the work of its co-author Ellie Goulding while sneakily nicking some of her edge. 'The Boy Who Murdered Love' is a lilting split song whose straight verses perfectly frame another massive chorus. With that voice clearly capable of conquering the whole electro-pop thing, a follow-up question is raised: Does it have what it takes for a proper weepie? The answer is 'Yes' on the fragile 'Four Leaf Clover' and epic-sounding, Pallot-penned 'Put It Back Together', but 'No', on the nice-but-generic 'Notice' and Hynes's stripped-back 'Me & You' - with those last two being the rare songs here that seem to lack a certain something.

However, there's fun and fizz in abundance elsewhere on the album. The brassy, hooky 'My Hip' still blows us away as much as the first time we laid ears on it, while a sparkling cover of The Sugarcubes' 'Hit' gives some modern gloss to Björk's former band's most commercial moment. Though it sadly excises Einar's gloriously uncool rap (maybe Vickers missed a trick by not roping in John & Edward to have a bash?), it should still inspire some of the new generation to delve into the back catalogue of Iceland's finest. Lyrically, the album is pretty one-note (being all about boyz 'n' breakups), but it still feels refreshingly honest. A line like "N.U.M.B. / I feel empty / Of feeling / Of feeling / Even God is grieving" might look completely absurd on paper, but in the listening, it just nails the tragicomic solipsism of depressed teenage heartbreak.

For all the sniffiness about RCA self-consciously trying to rebrand Vickers as a "credible" artist, the fact is that it's not just window-dressing. The average X Factor alumnus seeking serious success sticks to safe one-off shows and telly for a couple of years to build up the brand. Vickers has actually put the hours in on the road when it would have been so much easier (and less risky) to do a couple of chatshows and put her feet up. More importantly, she and her friends have crafted an album that's drenched in accessible pop melodies while never sacrificing the charm and personality that clawed us in from the start.

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