When I worked in a record store, we had a customer who came in every Saturday and only bought singles and albums by teenage female artists. We thought this a bit strange for a single man approaching his mid 50s, but whatever floats your boat, eh? One morning on the way to open up we found him crouched in the doorway, dead from a heart attack.
I felt kind of guilty, as it’s possible the giant Girls Aloud promo stand we put in the window on Friday night pushed the poor fellow over the edge. Had this been a more recent event, it’s possible that promo stand would have been for Betty Curse. I’m certain the effect would have been the same, although we probably could have sold Ms Curse a few photos, and she’d probably have put them on the cover of a single. Our customer would have been chuffed too – he’d finally have got some recognition from the pop genre which he at times seemed to fund on his own.
This story contains the elements that you will find in a Betty Curse tune. There’s pop, and there’s death (peculiar 50 year old men are mysteriously absent). Hear Lies… lays out in full Betty Curse’s agenda. Fronted by the aforementioned Betty Curse (formerly Megan Burns) what you’re confronted with is an album full of pop rock tunes, which in itself is no bad thing. There’s not a track here that doesn’t fulfil the criteria required to achieve steady radio rotation.
The production is immaculate – you can practically see your reflection in it. Likewise, the guitars fizz and chug away just like they’re supposed to when you list the likes of Nick Cave and The Velvets as influences and you look like a pristine Goth chick.
There are choruses that are undeniably catchy (recent singles God This Hurts and Excuse All The Blood are obvious examples), and then there’s Betty’s voice itself, which sounds remarkably Americanised despite coming from Liverpool. There are even vocal accompaniments that go “Ba-Ba-Ba-Baaah” taken straight from flash in the pan ’60s vocal groups. If you were looking for a comparison, you’d have to look no further than Avril Lavigne. So as a pop album, be in no doubt, this is a surefire winner.
When the “Death” element comes into play things take a turn for the worst. Betty Curse’s attempt at being a little bit odd, a little bit Goth, and a little bit scary is suspect to say the least. Whether the Goth approach is Curse’s idea or her record company’s is hard to tell, but it stinks of poorly advised marketing. The likes of My Chemical Romance or Bullet For My Valentine may be busy painting the planet black, but they at least seem to have some kind of integrity. Betty Curse on the other hand appears to have assumed a role because Goth is currently the new black.
Even worse are her lyrics. Alongside her alleged lyrical obsession with death, you’re faced with Betty crowing on about homework, all too knowing references to Linda Blair (if you want to show off your horror credentials pick someone like Linnea Quigley), and numerous songs about cheating boyfriends that have little in the way of insight or despair about them. You’ve got to dig deep if you’re going to push yourself as a Gothic rocker, and there’s nothing here to rival “I was walking around the flower show like a leper coming down with some kind of nervous hysteria” (that’s Nick Cave incidentally). These songs are pubescent at best.
As a pop album Hear Lies is pretty good, but as an attempt at rock posturing it’s really pretty woeful. You have to wonder who this is going to appeal to. Too odd for the pop audience and too poppy for most of the black eyeliner brigade (most of whom can smell a faker with ease – no mean feat over the pong of joss sticks and patchouli oil), it may well struggle to find its place.