Say what you like about Steve Albini, but you’ve gotta admit he knows a decent voice when he hears one – hence the work with Scout Niblett on her third long-playing grunge-folk opus ‘Kidnapped By Neptune’. And what a voice it is, the syrup-like croak dancing over the oft-plaintive strum that accompanies it, with more than a hint of Peej Harvey and the odd strain reminiscent of Kurt in his prime. Sweet, yet with something of a bitter edge to it.
Not that it’s only her voice that she’s got going for her here, as the sparse guitar lines that break into densely-packed alt.rock riffs and heavy-handed drumming do wonders in complimenting her intricately-woven vocals. Despite the forcefulness and power of the drums and the QOTSA-indebted guitars, though, it’s usually the more delicate parts that come across as the more intense – the false sense of security in ‘Relax’ (with the refrain “I smell fear cooking”), the lulling address at the beginning of ‘Pom Poms’, the first half of ‘Hot To Death’ where, although only seconds into the LP, you can already taste the dust in your mouth. Indeed, in some cases it’s her vocal delivery that saves a lot of the songs, as demonstrated in ‘Valvoline’ which would essentially be a string of broken (and slightly ham-fisted) drum breaks if it weren’t for her tones book-ending each one.
In places, Scout uses her lyrics like their own rhythm, with the fiercely loop-like ‘Safety Pants’ and the layered early curveball of the title track, which at times seems at odds with the way they are given room to breath and unravel in enchanting, arrhythmic ways. But where the album seems to lack cohesion, even from the start of a song to the end, it makes up for in pure curiosity factor, drawing the listener in transfixed, intrigued as to where this wondrous sound may turn next. If you’re looking for dusty, cavernous melancholia entwined with hard rockin’ and speckled with magic, then consider it found.
8Thomas Blatchford's Score