Here’s a reprint of my recent of the ace Wild Belle album that ran in Hot Press.
Key Track: ‘Another Girl’
FASHION DARLINGS’ DEBUT DELIVERS BOTH STYLE AND SUBSTANCE
Whenever brother/sister rock steady, ska, blues and pop duo Elliot and Natalie Bergman made their first onstage forays under the guise of Wild Belle at the start of 2012, the classically trained tunesmiths found themselves, for better or worse, clutched to the collective breast of the fashion world. With music makers and lovers having a somewhat prickly relationship at the best of times when it comes to the trendy Wendy’s and dapper Dan’s of that particular scene, the act endured intense scrutiny as people wanted to find out if they had substance to back up their admittedly eye-catching style.
Debut album Isles is their sonic response to the detractors and it’s an 11 track opus full of syrupy melodies that defiantly proves there’s much more to the band than a handful of pretty promo pics. Opening their account with ‘Keep You,’ the tune is a rock steady-infused shuffle which sees nursery rhyme-like vocal hook nuzzle up beside an ace, echoing dub sound and from the get-go it’s clear that they have some serious musical chops. As each song is intended to stand alone like an island (hence the title), every track takes the listener on a musical tour of the globe and there are elements of afrobeat (‘Twisted’) ska (‘It’s Too Late’) and 60s-era British invasion (‘’When It’s Over’) on the opus.
Natalie’s vocals soundtrack the journey perfectly, with her effortless croon calling to mind Amy Winehouse and Gloria Jones during her ‘Tainted Love’ pomp. While Isles does run out of steam a little towards the end, the likes of ‘Happy Home’ (which is bit of a reimagining of XTC’s classic ‘Making Plans For Nigel’) and the bluesy, handclap-driven ‘Another Girl’ should put a smile on even the harshest critics’ mug.