Charlotte Hatherley : Grey Will Fade

Ash's rock-vixen guitarist makes not-too-bad actually solo bow...

By default, all female rock stars – excluding [a]Peaches[/a]

‘ stomach-turning, she-man shtick, of course – are beautiful creatures.

After all, they invert the dogmatic rock’n’roll decree that this is indeed a man’s world, converting smarmy blokes with self-satisfied haircuts into slobbering hyenas falling over each other to get a closer look. Why? Because as a man there’s nothing cooler than a woman who can take more drugs, drink more whisky and write better songs than you.

After six years’ service in the rock’n’roll youth club that is Ash, [a]Charlotte Hatherley[/a]’s septum probably stings just a little. Her liver is most likely blackening. And there’s no question that she could cause mass-scale trouser-jazzing in the Camden Barfly. Clearly, she’s somewhat overqualified for this solo artist malarkey, but that’s not really the point. After all, if good looks and the constitution of a concrete elephant were all there was to it, some of you might actually remember who Harry was. No, the knack lies in having a decent record to go with everything else.

Blessedly, ‘Grey Will Fade’ doesn’t fall at this hurdle. From the sparkling new-wave guitars of opener ‘Kim Wilde’ to the stadium-goosing melodies of’Where I’m Calling From’, it’s clear that Charlotte hasn’t strayed too far from home.’Bastardo’, the tale of the Mexican Lothario who wines and dines our heroine then tea-leafs her guitar, even has the tongue-in-cheek charm of many early Ash classics. It’s hardly a radical departure, but hey, what did you expect?

Yes, sometimes, as on ‘Down’ and the title track, we blunder into the arena of indie-anthems-by-numbers, and occasionally Hatherley’s voice can be a little too bland and weedy. But these are minor gripes, more than amply made up for by moments such as the gleeful honky-tonk piano on ‘Summer’ or the metallic krautrock riffing of ‘ Stop’.

A minor triumph, then, and if it doesn’t repeat the chart-straddling success of the day job, put it down to lack of practice. The real question [a]Charlotte Hatherley[/a] must face now is where to

go from here?

Barry Nicolson