The ghost doth boast

Because of the constant deluge of new bands rushing out demos and being subsequently hyped to cover model status (thanks, NME), I can’t tell how much attention people paid to The Noisettes. Though they’ve been unceremoniously lumped under drek like The Kooks and Dirty Pretty Things et al., the trio deserves a bit more attention than their lackluster countrymen.

When approaching the group, most bloggers focus on singer/bassist Shingai Shoniwa because, shocker, she’s black, female, and isn’t it naughty to have her in a rock group no less! But The Noisettes are best taken together (it’s not about to become the Shingai Show), as Dan Smith’s chunky peanut butter via syringe guitar work and Jamie Morrison’s staid, stolid and stupidly accurate drumming are equally essential.

That said (and because it bears description), Shoniwa’s voice is like a sneaky pinch on the ass, in that her squeaky soul is as surprising as it is fun. Forget the press release patter about Shoniwa being a “Billie Holiday on PCP” (whoever wrote that has never seen someone on PCP). She doe share a smoky vocal twitter when singing low, thoughtlessly dropping it when it comes time to belt things out. And the squeal that she does, preciously annoying as it is, could be the work of a more vocally-trained Lady Sov singing in the shower.

One of the group’s best songs is “Scratch Your Name.” Smith’s heavy serpentine lead might have been written in the 70s, Shoniwa is bratty and demure at once, and where those two meet is absolutely stirring. Shouting over the choppy chorus, Smith and Shoniwa beg listeners to leave a mark on the Earth, phrasing it as if it were a Yes tune with more gusto. The spiny solo that follows reveals Smith might more than a passing fascination in Steve Howe’s spiral-staircase fingerpicking.

Once you’re through with that wallop, there’s “Rifle Song” keeping the heart rate up. It takes a while for the song’s structure to appear in the uniquely timed and uniquely tuned upstrokes, and once it’s there it’s not backing off. Shoniwa is precocious, theatrical, nasty — and vicious above all. Go ahead, stand close to her, and the air she pushes when plowing through the second half of the song will impale you. Even better is when she reigns it in to moan, “What is this / final kiss / disppears,” then resumes the barrage. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to whom The Noisettes have been favorably compared to, have some serious competition. The other two songs on the group’s Myspace page are further exemplary of their range, particularly the pop/rock/jazz fusion of sex jam “Wind Blows Hot.” Though the group only has an EP under their belts, an LP with as much promise could put The Noisettes in the faces of unsuspecting Americans and Britons alike. I’m a bit smitten, if a bit nicked up as well.


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