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Norman Records

Drugstore - Anatomy

Recommended by us on 11th August 2011. 2 people love me. Be the 3rd...

Anatomy by Drugstore
Disclaimer: all reviews are simply the personal opinions of our staff and customers. They are not the official opinion of Norman Records as a whole. More details here...OK?
(1 review) 9/10

Reviews

9/10 according to on Thu 11 Aug, 2011

This is the first thing I picked off the reviews pile, thinking "are these guys still going?", and remembering that ace Thom Yorke duet from years ago. As it happens they actually weren't still going for a while, having split in '02, and only got back together in '09 after seven years of personal turmoil followed by a triumphant sold-out reunion gig originally intended as a one-off. Buoyed by a gift of a guitar from a fan, their troubled front woman Isabel Monteiro set to work making something new. Quite an album this is, too. From the opening drawn-out Morricone-esque chords it's a minimal, spooked affair, with cautiously picked guitars and brushed drums backing Isabel's weather-beaten and heavily accented voice. There are still moments of lushness here, but overall this album is really intimate and timeless-sounding. It's really resonating with me, to be honest. It's equal parts defeated and hopeful, with a lot of the lyrics seemingly focusing on embracing the inevitability of change. I guess it kind of reminds me of Iron and Wine in a way - there's that same sense of restraint and the same feeling that you're there in the room with her as she's singing. A touch of Herman Dune's quieter stuff, too, and the confessional feel of Eels's better moments (particularly on the stunning 'Clouds') but none of these comparisons really do this record justice because ultimately Drugstore are a force unto themselves, and there's a brittle airiness to these songs that none of those aforementioned bands often achieve. Isabel describes this record as "painfully intimate, shamelessly simple, devastatingly sad". I'd agree on all three counts, but add "heartbreakingly brilliant" to that list. If you've ruined all your good break-up records on bad break-ups, here's one to keep to yourself. I like it.

Press release

Isabel Monteiro has a story to tell you. It’s about passion and pain; rock-bottom and redemption. It’s as compelling as it is self-confessedly hubristic, and perhaps more importantly, it’s gratifyingly entertaining and moving. If you ask the internet the right question, you’ll find that have been, ahem, kind of a big deal in their time. They toured with Jeff Buckley, who liked them so much he took to covering their debut single Alive – go to is.gd/buckleydrugstore to hear him do so. They toured with Radiohead, whose singer liked them so much he sang a cello-laden duet with Isabel, which reached the UK Top 20 – go to is.gd/radioheaddrugstore to hear it. Had anyone actually thought about it, Drugstore would have undoubtedly been branded Alt.country – as is the case today. Isabel’s smoky vocals and pitch-dark lyrical subject matter, coupled with her new band’s minimalist, melancholic guitar and string arrangements, stick them firmly in the lovelorn, caustic company of Low, Dusty in Memphis and Leonard Cohen.After three albums on three labels, Drugstore went their separate ways in 2002, and in Isabel’s own words, “things spiralled down” into seven undeniably gloomy years.

The singer survived, perhaps in spite of herself, on wine and hope. “Love for life kept me alive,” she says now, until September 2009, when a briefly reunited original band played a gig at Dingwalls in London, “just for fun”. It sold out. This made a lot of people – Isabel included – realise that far from being stuck in any era, Drugstore’s music nimbly hopped over the ages, from 1920s Berlin cabaret through the French chanson tradition, via The Velvet Underground’s woozy melodic charm and Tom Waits’ bar-room badinage, across PJ Harvey’s earnest intellect and The Bad Seeds’ rumbling, angry sadness. The singer felt emboldened and, inspired by a guitar donated by a fan, work started on material for the album Anatomy. In 2010 she played a sold out show at London’s ICA.  Ever the benevolent dictator – “It was true then, it’s still true now. You’ve gotta have someone leading the boat downwards…” – Isabel held open auditions for Drugstore at legendary London bar The Troubadour, and all the while she wrote the “liberating” Anatomy blog (isabelmonteiro1.blogspot.com) that would eventually inspire their new album’s title and lyrical content. “My blog is part of the band,” she explains. “Anatomy is about exposing yourself to the core, whether it’s pretty or ugly. I think it’s both: an analytical inspection of a state of mind."So now we have a freshly stocked Drugstore – “new cowboys”, Isabel calls them - convening at a remote studio on Platt’s Eyot – an island on the River Thames near Richmond – there they created Anatomy’s 12 stripped-and-whipped tracks together.  “It’s painfully intimate, shamelessly simple, devastatingly sad,” says a disarmingly candid Isabel. “And right in the middle of this fucked-up seascape, the twisted heart of our little Drugstore still beats pretty.”

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