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I am a huge fan of Tunstall's 'Eye to the Telescope', and I have to admit I was slightly worried that the second album would be a bit of a let down. I am happy to say that I was proved completely wrong - 'Drastic Fantastic' is, in my opinion, even stronger than 'Eye to the Telescope', with numerous strengths and very few weaknesses.
In the first place, it is a little bit more folksy and a bit less pop/mainstream than the first album, which for me played to her strengths as an artist, demonstrating that as a musician she has what it takes to produce slightly more challenging pieces. The two tracks that stand out in particular in this respect are 'Funnyman' and 'White Bird'. 'Funnyman' is characterised by the same punchy, enticing guitar rhythm that made 'Black Horse and a Cherry Tree' so addictive. Also like 'Black Horse and a Cherry Tree', the lyrics are unique. I love the fact that Tunstall's lyrics are all distinctive and original, and yet so easy to pick up - she has you singing along in no time.
'White Bird' is somethign different, a very beautiful folk track, which shares a slightly mournful air with tracks from the first album such as 'Heal Over' and 'Silent Sea', and reminds me ever so slightly of Kate Rusby. The guitar picking is stunning, the lyrics unique and interesting. 'Beauty of Uncertainty' make a nice companion to this track, as it shares the same haunting, introspective mood and beautiful guitar work.
Other strong tracks on the album include 'Hold On' and 'Little Favours', both of which are characterised by the same thumping guitar rhythms as 'Funnyman', and 'Hopeless', which is gentler, more reminiscent of tracks like 'Other Side of the World', with a catchy rhythm and lyrics that make me smile.
I highly recommend this album - even if you don't like it better than her first, you will certainly like it just as much.
Everyone knows that a second album after a huge hit debut is going to be problematic, and while there's a whole lot to like about KT's "Drastic Fantastic" (DF, for short), it just doesn't quite hit the same chords as her first one. To begin with, those of you who, like me, have played "Eye to the Telescope" (EttT) on a loop since we bought it, will find on initial listening to DF that there's something very familiar here. I put this down primarily to the way the album was compiled, with how the heavier songs are interspersed with the softer ones, and ending up with a few softer songs at the end. This is exactly how EttT was compiled, and while I didn't object to that at the time, and there's nothing wrong with this, I'm hoping that future albums get a touch more creative with their compilations. But on closer inspection, this album has some real gems, and comparisons aside, this album is quite a nice collection of intelligent songs, that prove KT is still on the ball.
Personally, I prefer the quieter, folkier songs included here, which are 'Beauty of Uncertainty', 'Someday Soon', 'Paper Aeroplane' and my personal favourite, 'White Bird'. With these songs, KT leans heavily on her guitar and almost performs them A Capella, allowing the lyrics to come through and not be disguised by the instrumentals. I found most of these songs have interesting content, and while probably a touch less poetic than EttT in general, there are some songs here that, if we listen to them carefully, are very evocative and emotional. (I should mention that the liner notes in my copy of this CD have no lyrics in them, so you'll need to look them up on-line to make sure you're not mis-hearing this Scottish lass' intent.) There's also something very hopeful in what some of these songs are saying. For instance, in 'Someday Soon' we feel like she's trying to tell us that while she's felt the pressures of her fame and it isn't easy to cope with, she's also aware that she can step back from it and keep herself from being swallowed by it all. Then, in the song 'White Bird' she tries to see the world from another perspective while observing the creature that is looking at her world. This is no less creative than her EttT hit 'Black Horse and Cherry Tree', and none of these songs should be taken for granted.
Somewhere in the middle we get a slightly out-of-whack song 'Funnyman' which seems to straddle the folk and rock sides of this whole album. Looking at the lyrics of this song it is hard to keep from thinking she's got a political agenda here, and I can't help thinking of some world leaders that this song could be referring to.
It is only when we get to the heavier songs that we find that, in some places, KT has fallen slightly into the mundane, in three of her songs on this album. There's 'I Don't Want You' which is your least interesting song, musically, and has only a touch going for it with the lyrics. Then there's the song 'Little Favours' with its ho-hum repetition of "I do love you" throughout the first half. Finally, there's 'Saving My Face' which is has the least interesting music to it, and also a touch short on the poetry side with its words. This isn't to say that these are bad songs, however, since they are still rocky, upbeat songs that nicely show that electric side of her. But I'd say they aren't the best songs on the album, and it made me feel that some of the creativity that the rock songs had on EttT were lacking here.
As for the big hit from this album 'Hold On', while I thought this was better than the three I've already mentioned, it is just a touch to similar to 'Little Favours' for my taste, and doesn't really impress me as much as it apparently did the rest of the listening public. Still, it does have a really fun opening, and the lyrics are interesting and with a catchy tune. But when it comes to these heavier songs, I'd have to say that I most enjoy 'If Only' with her voice hitting those high notes with such cheek, you can't help smiling. Now I might be influenced by the fact I was reading Celia Ahern's silly novel "If You Could See Me Now!" when I bought this album, but this song would be absolutely perfect as the theme song for that book, and if they ever turn it into a movie and don't use this song, they'd be totally stupid - since the lyrics are almost identical to the novel's title, and everything in the song fits the book.
The biggest critics of this album have pointed to a feeling that KT moved away from her folk music roots here, and moved over a bit too much into pop for their tastes. I can't totally agree with them since it would seem from what I've said here that there are still more folk-like songs on this album than there are pop-rock songs. Still, there's a lack of a real wow-factor song on this album for me that 'Black Horse and Cherry Tree' was on EttT. And while I wouldn't say this album is boring, I'd have to admit that it seems to be missing a touch of the sparkle that EttT had. Certainly, this isn't an album you'll be able to judge by only one listening, and I'd encourage people to give this several rounds before they write it off, as the more you hear these songs, the more you'll find things to enjoy in them. It's the kind of album you'll want to put on in your car as you take a ride somewhere on your own, so you don't have conversation to bother your concentration. In all, I do like this album, but will give it only four stars out of five and still recommend it.
Thanks for reading!
Davida Chazan © October, 2008
This album is available new from Amazon for £7.98 or through their marketplace from £3.00.
I found the lyrics to the songs on this album at http://www.metrolyrics.com/drastic-fantastic-album-kt-tunstall.html
KT's official website at http://www.kttunstall.com/music/ has music samples, and lyrics to all the songs, as well as video clips of two songs on this album - 'Hold On' and 'Saving My Face'.
Well they say the second album is always the toughest, but ms tunstall seems to have brushed that aside and has came storming back from her mercury nominated 1st album, and created and equally peachy second album.
However that doesn't mean it doesn't have its problems. ok the tunes are very good, but i can't imagine many of them being able to top the chart, which really, for such a talented musician, they should be.
and i feel the tracks are also a bit too similar to her first album too, with the same chordy based acoustic singer songwriter feel, she could easily have tried out a few more interesting ideas. also, it feels a little bit too much studio produced: it could have done with a bit more of a rough feel to capture her terrific live performance standards.
oh dear i didn't mean to do that- i've just managed to slag off a terrific album! i like it more than her first one, and one word of advice- you don't need her first one and this- they are so similar that you'll get enough tunstall with one or the other, both similar, both fantastic.
It was always going to be hard for KT to follow the phenomenal success of her debut studio album, Eye to The Telescope, but Drastic Fantastic is a worthy and enjoyable effort. Recieving a somewhat mixed reaction from the critics and the public, the album offers an ecceltic mix of KT's upbeat guitair based anthems tapered by the more poignant and softer tracks that haunt the last third of the album. 'Hold On' was offered as the lead single for the album and whilst not offering anything ground breaking in terms of guitar-based pop, has a catchy and rhythmic sound. 'Saving My Face' followed quickly as the follow up single but failed to make an impact in the charts, leaving the album with falling sales. The new year has heralded the release of one of the more radio friendly of KT's latest offerings, 'If Only' which hooks the listener with its repetitive but tuneful chorus and its success remains to be seen. The real strength of the album seems to come not from these radio friendly, crowd pleasers which have led to some reviewers labelling the album overproduced and a commerical sell out, but from the more soulful and poignant tracks which lare bare KT's voice and lyrics. Tracks such as 'Someday Soon', 'Hopeless', and 'Beauty of Uncertainty' offer something of the original Tunstall who's unique blend of folk and pop promised something exciting and original for the British music scene. It remains to be seen whether Drastic Fantastic indicates a new commercial, perhaps even Americanised direction for KT's talent or whether she will return with a more alternative and original third album. Regardless, KT seems to have mostly avoided the dreaded curse of the second album and seems likely to be pumping out of the trans-atlantic airwaves for the foreseeable future.
"Drastic Fantastic" - i wouldnt quite go that far - but all in all its a pretty decent album - a couple of the songs were a bit boring but the others certainly made up for it , i dont think KT really suits singing ballads it kind of makes her lose her edge - shes much better when shes rocking out . it much more natural.
on the whole - i would recommend this album - one of those ones you can have on in the car , or when your tidying up.
As written on amazon.co.uk (u/n bob skeleton)
Before having this album in my hands, I must say I was slightly worried that second album syndrome would rear it's ugly head, especially being a huge fan of KT's debut album Eye To The Telescope.. But within moments of hearing the first track I was relieved to find this wouldn't be the case.
KT seems to have made a, what I can only describe as flawless transition to the next chapter.
Like the first album, each song takes you on a wonderful journey from start to finish, a great mixed bag of tunes to enjoy!
For me on first listen, the songs that seemed to stand out instantly were the first single, Hold On, Saving My Face, Funnyman, Little Favours, and If Only, it took me a few more listens to truly appreciate the beauty of the more mellow tracks such as "White Bird" "Someday Soon" & the simply beautiful "Paper Aeroplane". After playing the CD over and over numerous times I have realised it's not easy to pinpoint a favourite track, as each one is as great as the next in it's own unique and magical way. However, on my latest listen Saving My Face was at top rank, though next time it'll be Funnyman, and the time after that If Only......and so on.....
As Cliché as it sounds, there is certainly something for everyone on this album. You are most definitely missing out if this isn't part of your CD collection already!
A sensational second album from Miss Tunstall to say the very least. Well done!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Little Favours
2 If Only
3 White Bird
5 Hold On
7 I Don't Want You Now
8 Saving My Face
9 Beauty Of Uncertainty
10 Someday Soon
11 Paper Aeroplane