Little Fish - Baffled and Beat

Mike Hughes 13/09/2010

Rating: 3.5/5

'Say You Don't Want It'

I was really keen to hear this. I saw Little Fish opening for Hole a few months back and I was hugely impressed. That night, front woman Juju, snake skinny in a ripped tee shirt and leather jacket, started as she meant to go on, jumping frenziedly onto the stage front monitors.
If they were visceral live, the recorded output is just as elemental but in some surprising ways. From the moment this opens with 'Darling Dear' the sound is loose, beautifully put together but sounding as though it hails from some New York loft rather than rather more prosaic Oxford. The way the track layers with yelps and piano sounds, it's simplicity, makes this sound much more like Patti Smith or The Velvet Underground than the more often made comparison to PJ Harvey.

I'm not sure about the most extreme end of Juju's yelping, but she certainly has plenty of vocal range in a very rock music context. If I've made it sound like it harks back to the seventies, 'Heroin Dance' sounds like the sort of cod-madrigal that pre-punk prog rockers might have come up with up. Or at least the album version does. In doing a bit of research I found an acoustic version of this song of hope over despair which seems much better suited in its sparsity to the subject matter.The chord progressions here really show off Juju's voice and it's ability to convey longing.

'Sweat and Shiver' is a fairly conventional rocker, the sort of thing you need in a 12 track long player.

I'm not suggesting that Little Fish are in some re-hashing dusty 70's sounds. More so, that this is the environment in which they have chosen to live for this record. I wonder how much is their doing and how much is producer Linda Perry's influence. The one time 4 Non Blondes mainstay is now pervasive in both writing and developing other new bands. I just don't remember this vibe from the live band that I saw back in Brixton.

It sounds that I am being overall negative about this, and that's not my intention. I actually like it loads. Numbers like the title track 'Baffled and Beat' have an absorbing mixture of energy and simplicity. I've found myself playing the record on long car journeys for the pleasure of hearing it unfold. Just be aware of what you are getting; something fairly strummy and simple, but brought alive by that voice and that energy.