The singer from northern England has made one of the most vital and intense albums of the year
It is a truth universally acknowledged that 2016 was one hell of a crap year. Syria, Brexit and Trump were just a few of the dark sentinels dominating that annus horribilis. Not to mention the deaths of Bowie and Cohen.
That black year is just one of the topics put to trial by fire on Nadine Shah’s excoriating fifth album, a blast of molten fury and scorn delivered with hypnotic intensity by the mixed race singer from Northern England.
The holiday destinations here are the beaches of Greece and Calais, where refugees are washed up like human detritus as mostly uncaring tourists frolic nearby. There are no artistic niceties. "What is there left to inspire us with a fascist in the White House?" she asks on 2016, on the Cure-like Yes Men she drips acid on the clientelism of modern politics, and the prowling Evil addresses her own personal experiences of US customs.
Place Like This ends with a recorded chant of "refugees not welcome here!" and as a second generation emigrant herself, she goes autobiographical on Out The Way, an ugly account of everyday racism.
It’s all delivered in Shah’s strident and urgent voice across music that variously ticks and whirrs with jagged guitars, stabs of brass and an encroaching feeling of claustrophobia. It has something of the clangourous melodic darkness of Siouxsie and the Banshees, the fevered intensity of The The, and the brooding intelligence of PJ Harvey.
There is anger aplenty but Shah does it all without self-righteousness or worthy lecturing. A subtle feat on what is a bruising and brutally honest album. This is one of the year’s most intense and vital listens.
Alan Corr @corralan