Hip ’90s folkie edges ever closer to the coffee table

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Beth Orton: Comfort Of Strangers

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Beth Orton: Comfort Of Strangers

Harsh though they may seem, the whispers are that 10 years on from her debut album, ‘Trailer Park’, Beth Orton has now become a kind of Dido it’s OK to like. Maybe not such a bad thing: her previous badge-of-cool collaborators (The Chemical Brothers) are now nothing more than a washed-up nostalgia act, while credibility-wise Radio 2 has bucked up its ideas sufficiently since the mid-’90s to now provide an audience for folkie singer/songwriters who are trendier than Tunstall yet not quite as barmy as Banhart.


Of course, aside from her voice’s undeniable, slightly husky-yet-soothing quality, Orton’s songwriting has always been left of centre and her fourth album is no exception. Wistful opener ‘Worms’ borrows its rhythm from, of all things, Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’; ‘Rectify’ twists and turns all over the shop, while you somehow doubt that a song called ‘Absinthe’ would ever permeate a Katie Melua tracklist. But the sad fact is that elsewhere, on the likes of the title track and ‘Safe In Your Arms’ there’s simply too much finger-picking and lyrics that concern relationship ‘issues’ of the adult-shopping-in-IKEA variety. Maybe Beth Orton, unlike some of her still-desperate-for-kudos contemporaries, is merely growing old gracefully, but clearly gracefully aging doesn’t necessarily make for great records.


Hamish MacBain