Album Reviews

Cannonball Jane – Street Vernacular

(Fortuna Pop!) UK release date: 6 February 2006

Sounding like another New York superhero(ine), by day she is Sharon Hagopian, mild mannered elementary music teacher; by night she is smart and sassy electro pop star… in her basement. She plays every instrument and mixes samples in to create “sassy hip-hop sampling girl-group pop” (so her press release says) or, alternatively lo-fi electropop reminiscent of Japanese pop groups in retro wear. No bad thing, in theory.

Recorded entirely at her home, with influences such as Run DMC, The Go! Team, Ladytron and The Go-Gos this is one joyous burst of bubble-pop. In a retro-music-world, Cannonball Jane would be found cruising the charity shop-junk-music-chic of Adventures in Stereo or Saint Etienne, while mixing in a bit of those other ‘Nu Yoik’ beat-box shouters of old like Brassy, Luscious Jackson and Northern State. The only snag here is the slightly anodyne vocal range, which tends to grate over the course of the album; but when has that stopped a pop career?

Hey! Hey! Alright! Fizzes along like a helium balloon surfing a wave of chopped fuzz guitar and cheese organ as a fun a punk-pop song full of musical exclamation marks. The kind of thing Girls Aloud should be doing, if they still shopped at Top Shop. While Taxi sounds like an urban garage-band Shangri Las or Goldfrapp.

Unfortunately the exuberance doesn’t last the length of the album. After her trick of working out a thumping beatbox, and idiot riff, she sweetens it up with her twee vocals to good and bad effect. Lyrics are buried in the mix or smothered in reverb, and even when heard offer no illumination….like all great pop! Lyrics? They’re there somewhere. Deep? Meaningless? You got it! Does it matter when the music is so effervescent and knowingly throwaway?

Sometimes the danger of home recording is the urge to pile more onto a track than is necessary as in the case of Brave New World which slyly references Mozart and samples from a Pac-Man game before almost collapsing before the yelped chorus of “Take medication” hints at the cure for the schizoid nature of the track.

Thankfully there are redeeming breaks in the cloud like the sweet knockabout charms of Automatic Knockout and the reverb-drenched nostalgia smokescreen of Fine Reminder and the dreamy closer The Force of Gravity.

No doubting her four-track bedroom-star abilities, but beyond the bedroom door lies a whole new world. Give the lady a break and she may ditch the day job, to the detriment of Brooklyn kids’ education.

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Cannonball Jane – Street Vernacular