Friday, Oct. 12, 2007

Scout Niblett's "This Fool Can Die Now"

By Evan Rytlewski
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Steve Albini? Check. Will Oldham? Check. Lasers? Check. It's on. I can't help but feel bad for all the artists who planned to release their new albums this week. They staked out a quiet little release date for themselves, then—BAM!—with just 10 days notice, Radiohead announces they'll be dropping their progressively priced, mega-newsworthy new album at the same time. Imagine if the NFL suddenly announced they'd re-scheduled the Super Bowl for your wedding day and you'll begin to understand how the poor artists eclipsed by In Rainbows are feeling right now. If there's any justice, all the Radiohead hoopla won't completely drown out whatever buzz is generating around the new Scout Niblett album, This Fool Can Die Now, the spunky British songstress' best album since her 2001 debut, Sweet Heart Fever. In the years since that tender introduction, Niblett veered into weirder, louder terrain, replacing offbeat confessionals with wild, noisy fits—and, at times, ditching her guitar for a drum set she hammered at primitively—but she returned to the basics for This Fool Can Die Now, an easy going album roughly divided between warm ballads and prickly grunge-rock throwbacks. She's assisted on four duets by Will Oldham, whose steady voice plays beautifully off of Niblett's unorthodox warble. "That kiss could have killed me," Niblett sings to him on "Kiss," the most romantic of these slow cuts. She repeats the sentiment until she's practically shrieking it: "It could have killed me!" The excitement in her voice makes the song, not only because it's so genuine and affecting, but because it lays out stakes that lyrics can't: You don't understand, she's saying, it literally could have killed me. Some songs ignite, others just sizzle. On "Dinosaur Egg" a tense, bluesy guitar riff lays out Scout's predicament: "Dinosaur egg, oh dinosaur egg, when will you hatch?" she huffs, "Cause I got a million people coming on Friday, and they expect to see a dinosaur, not an egg." The song ends dinosaur-less, but the following track, "Hide And Seek," offers more resolution, combusting into a Nirvana-ish frenzy of angry drums and fuzzed-out guitar. Whether Niblett is generating waves of feedback or backed by disarming string accompaniments, she's endlessly likeable, and This Fool Can Die Now does a hell of a job packaging all that personality.
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