Kami Thompson, The Bowery, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Wednesday 23 November 2011
Brother Teddy has clocked up five classily crafted pop albums, dad Richard, the progenitor of English folk-rock, rather more. Mum Linda's split with Richard spawned the sorrowfully thrilling break-up album Shoot Out the Lights (1982), the pair's last and best together. Linda was pregnant as it was recorded and she and Richard fell apart. And that daughter, Kami, is here tonight, with Linda watching in the wings, to launch her own first album, Love Lies.
This Thompson has begun with a break-up album, though she's left it vague whether one heartbreaker or many are behind its lyrics on abandonment, unfaithfulness and disappointment. "Where's my heart gone, I wonder, without crazy to focus on," she ponders in tonight's opener, "Little Boy Blue", symptomatic of an avowed liking for challenging partners and romantic turmoil. "I used to think I missed you... I was just a child then," she sneers on "4,000 Miles" to some Californian ex, and there's perhaps thankfully no sense of the harrowing depths her parents plumbed. The fault in her very promising debut, in fact, is its eventually monotone delivery and themes.
She's nervous, wondering quietly to the band what she should say when she takes the stage for this short set in a characterless new basement venue. But she has charisma – lips red and jaw ferociously jutting. Her voice and sometimes tunes remind me of the great lost English folk-rock band of the 1990s, the Hank Dogs (still to be glimpsed occasionally in the south London she calls home). Mostly, though, her music's a hard, fast cross between new wave and AOR, radio formats from before she was born. It's a bit like Costello, when he was backed by the nascent Huey Lewis and the News. The four-piece she leads on rhythm guitar includes a punchy electric guitarist whose sharp solos light the band up.
When she sends them off for a "crack-cocaine break", Thompson shuts her eyes for the spare country dirge "Never Again", and the smoky "Nice Cars". "Gotta Hold On" concludes her running romantic theme. But "Hold Your Fire", which isn't on Love Lies, is the song I'll remember. Its low, smouldering melody accompanies a list of suicide styles – brains spilled, throat slit – and the accusation: "You killed yourself and promptly murdered me". If it's a K. Thompson original, she'll carve her own name in her family's musical plot.
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