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Shivaree | Rough Dreams (Capitol)
When we last saw Ms Ambrosia Parsley she was being all quirky on the marvellously titled 'I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump' album. She sounded like a cartoon in name and vocal style and could beguile and irritate with equal ease. Well, she's back and if you thought she was odd before, well, you might not like this record. Sounding like a sad, deranged fairground at the start of Wagers, the music lopes in with the vocals trapped in the house of mirrors. Then it kicks into action with Gone Too Far, all scratchy noises and syrupy vocals. Her voice seems to shape-shift, bending with each note. You may find it annoying, but it certainly attracts your attention, as well as that of species of wildlife intrigued by strange noises. Whatever, there in no doubting that After The Prince... is a fine moment, with Ambrosia's voice dripping from the speakers in full sultry mode. If the vocals stretch the limits of your hearing, then the music will confound you further. There's no real style, it wavers from Hollywood musical style to fractured dance beats and with frequent return visits from the funfair. It's the slower songs that work best, without the clutter behind her, Parsley can get down to singing and there's less to interfere with her frequency range. Stealing Home is an obvious example, a lullaby of a song that lilts around the room before scampering off to the sunset. John 2:14 has a Latin vibe before the drum machine gets the better of it, but it's still fun for the most part. Reseda Casino is as normal as things get and is slightly dull for it, or maybe it's because your brain is used to the oddball by now. Things are restored to weird again by Queen-Sized Tomb and its opening line of "looks like someone got murdered" and you have to wonder if Joe Henry is still dabbling in the lyrics, as he did last time out. Feedback guitars hover around the song, averting your ears from her disconcerting words and creating a marvellous whirl in your head. The roadshow ups and leaves with Flycatcher, the roustabout adding his deep voice to Ambrosia's heights as they proclaim that "everybody's trying to get into heaven, but nobody's dead so far" before the lights go out in the big top for the end of another show. She still takes some getting used to, but you have to give her her dues, she can sure clean out your ears.

Laurence Arnold
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002

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