There are albums where the feist demonstrates an ability to cut deep with all the versatile utility of a Swiss Army Knife, twinkle-toeing and shape-shifting chimera-like through a surfeit of styles and idioms worn like easily-discarded second skins.
On the unrepresentatively-titled Let It Die, Feist nee Leslie Feist nee Bitch Lap-Lap (!) gives it the good ol’ college try, but can’t decide whether she’s more comfortable in the cocktail lounge, coffee-bar, or bed-sit. And instead of impressing with a dazzling array of costume-changes, there’s a feeling that she may have been OK with the outfit she arrived in.
Let It Die itself, a doomy, nervous swallow of a break-up ballad that could be an answer record to Elvis Costello‘s I Want You (“Losing your mind / for the sake of your heart”) isn’t the kind of taut emotion you need to be stretched over a whole album, but its intensity and focus is certainly missing from much of this set. One Evening, another break-up song that suffers in comparison to Let It Die, is a tune looking for asylum in The Federal Republic Of Dido. If you’ve seen the brochures, you already know that your holiday fund is best spent elsewhere, no matter how cheap the Easy Jet fares are.
However, there is clearer light to the shade. Though the anonymous Leisure Suite sounds similarly cribbed from Dido’s Music For Kitchens guidebook (available soon from your Property Management company), Secret Heart is all and yearning innocence wrapped up in one delicately arranged package. The spare Gatekeeper and Lonely Lonely could teach some of the other tracks here a thing or two about economy, while When I Was A Young Girl is a semi-convincing take on fatalistic folk.
Possibly the worst charge one could levy at Let It Die, is that much of it drifts by without a whiff of natural fragrance. Even the duffers don’t really create much of a foulness to get in a stink about, though Inside And Out, a Gibb Brothers concoction (not necessarily a bad thing, unbelievers), is delivered with all the last-chance-at-the-big-time faux-panache of a Lottery-show performer. To paraphrase OutKast, this is a rose that really does smell like poo-hoo-hoo.
Feist is clearly a gifted songwriter with an flair for melody and a sense for atmosphere that lesser feists can only dream of. When Let It Die drags, it’s when these attributes are forgotten or discarded. There’s a decent mini-album here to line-up along some of the better records that Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt have put the name to. That there’s also a soporific Dido triple-A side also here shouldn’t worry those discerning types with a track programmer on their disc players.
It may be surprise some that Feist was once so feisty as to share a flat with Peaches. For all the costume changes, this record bears no mark of squeezing into a lurid pair of pink hot pants. Maybe just occasionally, it should have done. In a reconstructed, post-feminist way of course.