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BETH ORTON - The Comfort Of Strangers   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 21 February 2006
1x Beth Orton = 51 x Joss Stone, according the alegbra of taste...

Unfairly known as the ‘comedown queen’, Beth Orton has been mining a particular furrow of the frail chauntese for a decade now. Or, more accurately, as the credible female singer-songwriter for whom massive commercial success has always eluded her. Singer-songwriter. What a dreadful phrase that is- Dylan’s a singer-songwriter.hell. Even Robbie Williams is a singer-songwriter. So the phrase is itself absolutely redundant.


Meanwhile, Beth Orton seems never to make great commercial inroads or revolutionise the music world. This isn’t due to talent (1x Beth Orton = 51 x Joss Stone, according the alegbra of taste), but due to the simple fact that Orton has never been able to transcend the era in which she rose to public prominence. Healthy, but never earthshattering sales, and a preference by cloth eared editors to prefer simpler, more pliable female stars to sell as eye candy on the front cover of their monthlies and radio 2 flagships have meant that Orton sits left of the spotlight.


Two years on from the contractual-obligation “Pass In Time”, and “The Comfort of Strangers” is well, yet another Beth Orton album. There’s no stylistic evolution from previous records – then again, if it aint broke, why fix it?  The template of previous albums, the gentle, understated music and the fragile vocals sound like your hangover at the exact moment you start to feel completely sober. Delicate, battered, and wise.


Where Orton shines is tapping into that particularly British mood that bands like Pink Floyd, Coldplay, and lesser lights have trademarked – a sense of exhausted, exasperated, quiet desperation coupled with a vague sense of distanced reserve from everything. With a dash of regretful sex, which seems to be Orton’s unique selling point – intelligent, sorrowful lust.


Concieved”, and the title track manage to convey this sense well : the feeling of the morning after. (and this is nothing new, ‘Central reservation’ carries much the same), but the mogadon pace fails to convey much sense of life until “Shadow of A Doubt” and “Shopping Trolley”. The rest of the album manages to indulge in a sense of vague British regret at something, at everything, and nothing in particular at the same time.


Which, if that’s what you want “Comfort Of Strangers” is perfect. If you want something that doesn’t sound like a dinner party with an ex-lover, you may want to look elsewhere.




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