Tag Archives: Kitchens Of Distinction

February 1996 – album reviews – Fruit’s ‘Hark At Her’ (“this bold, brash, noisy, fun, emotional tour‑de‑force”)

2 Feb

Fruit: 'Hark At Her'

Fruit: ‘Hark At Her’

Fruit is Patrick Fitzgerald (and friends). He, for those who care about such things, was the vocalist with the sadly underrated ‑ and sadly no more ‑ Kitchens Of Distinction, a trio of rather serious‑looking young men producing doomily arty, swirling guitar rock. (Digression: while Fruit is a terrific ‑ and more fun ‑ project, the Kitchens shouldn’t have been mercilessly dropped by One Little Indian. So much for the eclectic, egalitarian indies! OLI should get it together ‑ they dumped both No‑Man and Kitchens, unwilling to give them a little leeway to produce their own music. Basically, they now just exist to market Bjork. Idiots.)

So, as Kitchens Of Distinction… er… got out of the kitchen, Patrick set about producing this bold, brash, noisy, fun, emotional tour‑de‑force of (mainly) gay life. From the start, he was working against the prevailing musical current ‑ Fruit’s debut single, an evocation of gay life and death called The Queen Of Old Compton Street (not included here) came out in the same week as Oasis’ Live Forever. Such irony made me laugh until I choked.

Let Patrick educate you. Proceedings open with What Is Fruit?, sounding like one of The Fall’s chuck‑it‑all‑in‑the‑mix takes on crunchy guitar dance‑pop, but with a brighter sensibility from the start. Exotic voices and foreign tongues fly thick and fast with their interjections to that essential question. “Films, actors, addicts, vermin, / Friends, filth ‑ everyone I’ve ever met” ‑ out of the ghetto and all around us ‑ “not forgetting the two coppers in the kitchen.” This is gleeful and exuberant. Hell, the bright pop mix is even down to Pascal Gabriel.


 
Pleasure Yourself continues the fun, with much the same thrilling electric‑guitars‑plus‑electronics backing, as Patrick cheekily suggests: “Take my pleasure seriously / So come on baby and pleasure me / While you pleasure yourself.” Its wonderful directness can’t be avoided, and the same is true of Sally’s Car. To a ‘Diamond Dogs’‑era Bowie glam feel, Patrick remembers: “In Sally’s car we go too far… / lying on the back seat watching the meteors from Mars.” No, if you want subtlety, forget it. Then they drive away ‑ “put the roof down, turn the noise up.” Oh, come on! It’s corny, yes, but whoever your sexual partner, you’ve known that feeling.



 
But hey, if this is all getting too happy for you…

Starring Relationship ‑ featuring yet more dialogue, partly from Lush’s gleeful harpy Miki Berenyi ‑ is Patrick sounding as frankly pissed off as you always wish you could get when, at a party, you’ve got trapped into a corner with some misery of a person sitting on the stairs, bending your ear. “Don’t want to hear about your fucking relationship / The way you feel when he doesn’t think of you… / Just deal with it!” Patrick has got every whinging item of complaint in such talk nailed down and, to a soundtrack of suitably scratchy, edgy guitars, he’s spitting them all back at you ‑ with added bile.


 
The two central tracks of the album are not only the most musically dissimilar, but display the two sides of the gay experience. Prowler features the star‑shooting, to die‑for harmonies of David McAlmont: to a smooth late‑night soundtrack of lush acoustic guitars, husky organ and reedy trumpet, he and Patrick celebrate freedom and the opportunity to practice one’s desires without fear. It’s glorious. Through the music the sound of thunder breaks into the sweaty heat of a summer’s night outdoors. Such freedom is Shangri‑La…


 
The other side of the coin is Leather Jacket. To a Tricky‑ish soundtrack of kettle drums and nervously plucked guitars, Patrick relates an absolutely terrifying tale of gay‑bashing on the street. With increasing terror, he repeats the central line: “I hear the zip of his leather jacket / See the flashing of gun metallic…” The lads want to bash him up to impress their girlfriends, while he desperately prays to be spirited away by clicking his Doc Martened heels three times. Last time now: “I hear the…” Gunshot.


 
But there’s a reprise. Over the returning kettle drums, a certain Paul McGlone narrates his memories of a karate‑kicking and beating from two scum. Paul’s a survivor, though. He’s got the right idea. He wants justice ‑ to identify them in a police station‑‑and simple revenge ‑ the humane solution of a bullet through their heads. What with Lorne Burrell’s lethally camp, RuPaul‑ish delivery of a threat to kick the bully boys into paradise, the message is clear: the survivors are waiting…


 
The final track, Scatter Me, ends with death. Though these funerals of young men, AIDS victims, are now all too common – the same songs are sung, the same careful sideways looks to see who’s noticeably losing weight ‑ the proud defiance is still there: “The dead are so loud / Their monuments are so proud.” As he looks up to heaven and sees all the souls gazing down, Patrick’s naked, almost scarred voice surges with power and defiant strength, over a bare acoustic guitar and water effects.


 
So many voices and so many words, sung and spoken, populate this album that, at times, the music does rather take second place and search for a personality among many differing styles. But what the hell, this is such an amazing walk through relationships and experiences that such a criticism is unimportant for a fun project, a masterful achievement and a life‑defining catalogue of all those highs and lows.

(review by Vaughan Simons)

Fruit: ‘Hark At Her’
One Little Indian Records, TPLP75CD (5 016958 029524)
CD-only album
Released: January 1996

Get it from:
(2018 update) Out-of-print – best obtained second-hand, or downloaded from Bleep.

Fruit (Patrick Fitzgerald/Stephen Hero) online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube

December 1995 – live reviews – Anna Palm + Mandalay @ Upstairs at The Garage, Highbury, London, 20th December (“Anna Palm.. as full of explosive energy as a pan of popping corn (but) as far as being a singer-songwriter goes she still doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself… Mandalay’s style (is) stately, kaleidoscopic and coolly hallucinatory”)

22 Dec

Oops. I’ve come to what I thought was a serious, arty gig to find exotic scarves hanging from the ceiling and a little green-nylon Christmas tree sitting in the corner. What with this, the candle-lit tables and the cheerful little greetings flyers under said tree, I get the feeling that I’ve crashed someone else’s Christmas party.

This particular party’s being thrown by violinist-turned-singer-songwriter Anna Palm, known for a journey that started with busking in Covent Garden and Chelsea and went on to a stint with acoustic punk-folkers Nyah Fearties, a handful of albums and singles on One Little Indian, and support contributions to a variety of artists from YesSteve Howe to New Wave synth poet Anne Clark, ascerbic dream-pop realists Kitchens of Distinction and avant-Goth experimentalist Danielle Dax. It’s an interesting resume. Well, I hate to bad-mouth my hostess, and maybe it’s unfair to judge an artist from an event coming across very much as a fun gig, but I’m decidedly underwhelmed. Despite an indie all-star band (with various members of The Farm, Loop Guru and Kitchens of Distinction taking time out to back her up) she fails to shine.

It’s not as if she doesn’t try: a Violet Elizabeth figure in a frilly little-girl party dress, she’s as full of explosive energy as a pan of popping corn, exhorting people onto the floor to dance, singing with verve (if not always great pitch) and sawing acrobatically at her violin. But the band is under-rehearsed and scrappy, falling apart much too often. Anna’s songs, too, lack individuality and the delivery to make them memorable. A shame, as when she sets bow to strings some spirited and slyly lovable playing emerges.

Anna’s obviously a good player, but as far as being a singer-songwriter goes she still doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself. File under “needs work” and leave it at that for now. However, the mess does yield up one unexpected delight – a dance-groove version of Kites, compelling and grin-inducing, with Anna’s riotous violin scurrying over an early-’90s style baggy beat and the whole thing carrying a strong hint of I Will Survive. A novelty, perhaps, but it’s good to see Simon Dupree’s old hippy hit hopping onto a modern groove and feeling right at home. These particular Kites really fly. I wonder if the Shulman brothers (who notoriously hated their early Dupree-ism despite its success) might ease up and grin and bop along if they were here to hear this.

The real reason why I’m here is a duo called Mandalay, hiding further down the bill: it’s the new project by multi-instrumentalist and electronica aceSaul Freeman, who used to perform a similar role as half of the band Thieves alongside stratospheric singer David McAlmont. Thieves are long (and acrimoniously) split now, with what would have been their debut album a little uncomfortably repackaged as the stunning McAlmont debut (and if you haven’t heard that, you missed one of the most vitally progressive pop records of 1994).

Now Saul is quietly rematerializing, in partnership with singer Nicola Hitchcock, to reclaim some of his lost thunder. But although it shares the glittering crystalline texture of Thieves’ songs, Mandalay’s music is nowhere near as easy. As with Thieves, Cocteau Twins should be mentioned (especially when listening to the effects-swallowed guitars of Enough Love); so too should the frozen sadness of Portishead (especially on the chilly trilling of Enough Love). but Mandalay is more involved and intricate than either. These are multi-dimensional songs, Nicola’s frail but enthralling vocal melodies elevated from the ground on staggeringly complex musical architecture courtesy of interlocking blurry sequencers, obsessively repeating samples and eerie guitar treatments. Saul stands impassively amongst his host of computers and effects racks, gazing absently down at his guitar and its network of pedals. Every now and again he’ll tap and flick at the strings and a second later a whole web of music will swell from the speakers.

Mandalay’s style – stately, kaleidoscopic and coolly hallucinatory – is best exemplified by the silvery net of sampled vocals, the stabbing kick drum and the harmonica-skank guitar of More Than Venus: Nicola’s whispering Bush-y enunciation gives the perky melody an awkward, appealing sensuality. Walk By the Sea rumbles by on an ominous 3/4 riff, double-looped spiral claustrophobia and panic-pitch piano plinking. The Waiting gives full reign to Saul’s subtle space-age guitar work: cunningly-placed “brang”s and attenuated bell-notes amongst the fabric of a languorous techno-warble.

There’s plenty of pop in this (and, despite the duo’s clear and ineluctable whiteness of manner as well as appearance, more than a helping of trip-hop) but Mandalay are also decidedly post-rock. They’re part of the astonishing movement which also includes Moonshake, Laika and the late-lamented Disco Inferno, and which junks the conventional hierarchies of rock instrumentation in favour of the uncanny textures of digital sampling and electronic ensemble processing. This might not sound appealing to the traditionalists out there, but believe me, Mandalay are much more than noodling experimentalists. Try to think of their songs as angst-under-amber, refracted into confusing multiples by an unearthly light. Unsettling but beautiful pop for an uncertain info-saturated future. You want progression? It’s happening here.

Anna Palm online:
Homepage Facebook MySpace Last FM YouTube Spotify Tidal Amazon Music

Mandalay online:
Last FM Apple Music YouTube Deezer Google Play Spotify Amazon Music

Additional notes: (2020 update) Anna Palm now lives and occasionally performs in Stroud. Mandalay recorded two albums for V2 Music before splitting in 2002: both Nicola Hitchcock and Saul Freeman have continued intermittent solo careers.
 

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