Tracks of 2013 — #15 Charlotte Church

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Artists should go off-piste more often. It’s in their very career description, for the love of all things holy. Sticking to what you know gets you only to where you already know. Adventure is the heart of creativity and invention and what I’m saying is; Charlotte Church recorded something I want to call a highlight of the year and THAT’S FINAL.

Maybe context is needed here. We don’t live in the good old days, where bands turning up with a new sound was considered perfectly fine because both old and new hadn’t been invented yet. Now we know too much and expect far more. Ooh, Kylie Minogue is going all indie, YAWNARAMA. There’s our old friend ‘Establishment’ here too, among expectations of end product and basic evaluation of talent. So free pass to the old guys and favourites and M.I.A. because, well she’d eat you for breakfast, and You Shall Not Pass to commercial pop stars without the adequate amount of respect. Sorry boybands, you’re sausage….machines (*wipes brow*). No amount of new threads and dreads gonna get you credibility, back of the line.

The ‘voice of an angel’ part of Charlotte Church’s (very) young childhood career may have secured comfort in later life, or as much as any child star under the circumstances has enjoyed. Tenaciousness and determination turned up to the hilt were needed to fight the twin problems of growing up in front of camera lenses and the people ultimately responsible for those lenses.

How you measure the merit of the ‘experimental’ EPs released by Church earlier this year may well depend on the amount of cynicism you take to any claimed re-invention by a commercial artist. I’m wary of sounding like the biggest ever fan of her ever in the world ever by the sheer force of ‘WOW’ that comes from hearing ‘Glitterbombed’, one of the stand-outs from the year spent performing in very small venues to very small crowds. I’m a man with pop sensibility, I have little shame in admitting that my comfort comes from finding good songs, well constructed, and if that means analysing Kylie’s “Impossible Princess” as an indie album (which it is), then as the saying goes, come at me bro. There are duds in plenty of similar experiments in which artists and performers try something outside their comfort zone, if you want a fine example seek out “Green Man”, the debut solo album from Mark Owen of off Take That.

“Glitterbombed” is not a track from the Wire Magazine side of experimental excess, by any stretch. It is unusual – perhaps too slow in the verses and wildly untamed in the sweep up to the chorus with the plinky-plonk-guitar-squelch combo adding a confused flavour near the end. Bonkers, tentative, unexpected, silly – I love the song for all the reasons people may hate it. I recall a very early BBC reality show in which a couple would ‘live’ with people they disliked (homophobes with gay people, prim and proper parents with their teenage son’s favourite band Cradle of Filth, that sort of thing.) The highlight of the series was the traditional couple who couldn’t fathom modern art one bit, so they were given the full LDN tour of conceptual art, before being asked to create their own. Of course they came up with something which wasn’t particularly original or exciting, but they came up with their interpretation of modern art from their own perspective, a translation if you like. That’s “Glitterbombed” for me, a translation of indie/alternative, nothing you can’t pick apart for being a little Kate Bush, a little Cocteau Twins, a touch Björk. But for all that, it’s bloody stands up for itself.