With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

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‘Vertiginous Drops’ – Carol Hodge March 6, 2023

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 9:57 pm
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Carol Hodge, who has been featured on these pages quite a few times has a new album, her fourth, out on 10th March. I have been lucky enough to have been listening to it for a week or two and I can tell you that it is a fine collection of classy future classic songs. The album is called ‘Vertiginous Drops’ and it opens with a full-on production on “Best Will In The Word”. It is a song of good advice, common sense and perhaps most importantly hope. On top of all that it has some magnificent hooks and an uplifting brass refrain. “The Price” has a feel of Depeche Mode in its dark,bass-laden synth opening, but then it turns into an epic synthed-up power ballad when Carol’s vocals kick in. This tune made me think that an album of 80s covers by Carol Hodge would be rather good. “Grayson (Things Could Always Be Worse)” is a fabulous choice for first single from the album. It also has a darkness to it, but once again a vein of hope. Carol’s voice evokes huge emotion in this song. In a parallel universe “Grayson” would top the charts everywhere. I felt peak Human League, but far better vocals than that Oakey fella, when listening to “Never Run Out Of Things To Worry About” and if any track on this record was selected for a dance remix it should be this one. The multi-tracked vocals are ethereal, heavenly, and ravishingly luscious. “Clean The Slate” opens with a gorgeous choral vocal sound and builds to something that is stygian in its darkness with a heavy guitar onslaught, well at least I thought that was a massed guitar attack. Some of Carol’s best music has come from just her and a piano and while this album has immense scope and reach, “Giving It Up Now” is mostly Carol and her piano to the fore, the band is just a little more subtle here, at least until about two minutes in when the song takes off into the musical stratosphere and showcases the strength and range of Carol’s sumptuous voice. The song closes with the very clever coda of “all I can say with certainty is there will be uncertainty“. It sounds obvious, but not many have said it, have they?

If you love Carol’s ballads then you will adore “Oh, Amanda!”. The circus sideshow piano riff part way through adds a delightful eerie tone. I can imagine this track featuring on the soundtrack to one of Neil Gaiman’s darker tales. The next track, “Bitch, Don’t Break My Serenity” has a feel of someone digging through Brian Wilson’s brain and finding the stuff he was never allowed to record. In fact, a Beach Boys cover of this eldritchian style masterpiece would be very special indeed, perhaps with backing vocals by Carol herself and maybe Siouxsie Sioux as well. The harmonics and soft synth drone on “Wrong Side Of The Glass” got me thinking of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’. I know that isn’t the subject matter, but just a feeling the song gave me. It certainly sums up someone possibly reaching the end of their time, deep down a very sad and yet sublime song. The album closes with what I consider to be Carol’s finest song to date. It evokes a derelict cabaret theatre in 1930s Berlin in the way it feels musically. But lyrically it is staggeringly deep and suggests the underlying futility in this life of ours and maybe how small a part of the universe we are. A true masterpiece of an album on which Carol proves just how big her talent is.

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