RICKIE LEE JONES Ghostyhead Reprise 9362-46557-2

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The Independent Culture
It's been some while since Rickie Lee Jones made an album to challenge earlier classics like Pirates and The Magazine, but Ghostyhead might just have the grain and depth to stand such comparisons. Effectively, this is Rickie Lee's trip-hop record, her sung-spoken beat poetry underscored by the sparse, ethereal settings devised in collaboration with Low Pop Suicide's Rick Boston, rather than the usual jazz-flavoured pop-soul.

The LP is aptly titled - it seems to exist in a drifting cloud, with stories formed from smoke, set to tunes that are the merest wisps of melody. An air of thinly veiled mortality hangs around some songs, such as the self-explanatory "Road Kill" ("What's the matter with it?/ Why won't it close its eyes?") and "Howard", a tale about a nasty little brat who kills everything he comes across. Elsewhere, characters such as Jilly in the catchy "Firewalker" carry little conviction about their own existence and actions. It's life as anomie, a desultory drifting - but none the worse for that. Indeed, the way it mirrors the uncertainties of real life is probably unique in contemporary pop, a rare exercise in downbeat expressionism.