Do you have any guilty pleasures? Do you secretly put Queen on to do the vacuuming? Do you rock out to AC/DC for Simon Mayo's mid-week mosh? Do you really love that synthetic 'cheese' they add to your post-clubbing snack at the burger van, or the whipping 'cream' you get at the caff on your hot chocolate? Are you a closet OC fan or have you got a picture of Robert Pattinson stuck to the inside of your work locker? No? Nic-Naks, Pretzels, M&M's, Magnums, Jilly Cooper? Chances are you have a few if you're honest and although maybe not that much of an indulgence I think I will have to put Nerina Pallot down as one of mine. She may not be quite as risqu' as her original saucy and rather more controversial namesake but the latter day Lady Chatterley (She's Mrs Andy Chatterley) is still full of character.
'Year Of The Wolf' ('Better Than Porn' rejected as a possible alternative!) is the fourth album from the Jersey raised, Brit and Ivor Novello nominated, London born singer-song writer. When not driving around in her Beetle and pouring scorn on Maestro drivers the Rose drinking, crafty fag inhaler can be heard in all manner of places from the antipodean soap homes on either Home And Away or Neighbours to commercials for her fair Isle. (Her songs have even been sung by Kylie, Vickers and McEldry). Nerina's blend of perfect pitch pop that has an air of sophistication and maturity bereft in many of her contemporaries results in an all encompassing sound of appreciable worth. It may not be high brow enough to attract the ear of the intelligentsia but Nerina's music is exquisitely crafted and majestically arranged.
'Put Your Hands Up', the first single release taken from the album, starts 'Year Of the Wolf' off in fine style. The sumptuous string laden arrangements and dirty horns that thread sporadically through the 11 piece set are used to great effect on the opener. Set against Nerina's sometimes sultry and sensuous voice the arrangements highlight the clarity and texture of the vocal with neither losing out. Although Bernard Butler's production is precise and calculated it still lets each song soar without undue restraint. It is never heavy handed and has been balanced so as not to nullify the pleasure born from the lavish treatments on some numbers by over using the formula elsewhere.
The overall up beat and optimistic sounding album is breezy but never banal. It's infinitely singable and frighteningly catchy. After hearing the lyrics from 'Turn Me On Again' you can't dislodge them from playing on a continuous loop in your head........"Love is hate and love is fire, fill my head with dumb desire.............love is hate and love is mercy, first you hate and then you curse me."
The album is by no means one dimensional; 'All Bets are Off' tells of heartbreak. 'If I Lost You Now' has something of a 70's Jazz bent with touches of Crystal Gayle (Ask your Grandpa!) whilst 'I Think' starts out all 'C'mon Join the Band' and ends up in harmonious almost New Pornographers fashion. Where the album works best is on the full blown orchestrated numbers. 'Butterfly' is another wonderfully arranged, produced and performed example. The handclaps, tambourines and strings all combine seemingly effortlessly to showcase Nerina's luscious vocals.
Year Of The Wolf may not be the muso's choice, it may not be the accompaniment to the latest London soiree or the Culture Shows latest feature. It is however brilliantly put together pop of the highest calibre. Put Your Hands Up if you like Nerina..............................c'mon you know you wanna!