December 7, 2012
Rachel Zeffira - 'The Deserters'
Cat’s Eyes multi-instrumentalist spins cobwebs of gothic glamour on her Faris-free debut album
7 / 10
“A man can be judged by the company he keeps,” Greek poet Euripides once harrumphed. Take a butcher’s, then, at the gothic rapscallions Rachel Zeffira’s been hanging out with in London’s gloomiest hideouts. She’s knocked around with The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, rubbed shoulders with Toy, hobnobbed with SCUM. The classical music-inclined half of Cat’s Eyes has assembled an impressively stern-faced gang of mates.
It figures, then, that ‘The Deserters’ gleams brightest when the London-based Canadian’s spookily sparse compositions are sticky with the traces of her pals, and she’s able to straddle the classical/gothic pop divide as a brooding chanteuse who comes on like the love-child of Nico and Nick Drake. ‘Here On In’ is a woozy belter with a psychedelic groove and prickles of twinkling sound, while ‘Goodbye Divine’ comes drenched in corkscrews of washed-out organ over which Zeffira pouts, “I tried to forget about you”. Best of all is ‘Break The Spell’, a bonkers banger that’s a melancholy disco strut as sung by the ghost of Donna Summer, all done up in gothic lace and black nail varnish.
Much of the charm of ‘The Deserters’ lies in the winter-blasted chime of Zeffira’s voice, and those frozen-hinterland soundscapes. There are, however, moments of unwanted waftiness, as on her cover of ‘To Here Knows When’, which reimagines the My Bloody Valentine classic as a wishy-washy John Lewis Christmas ad. The soporifically soppy ‘Front Door’, too, will make you yearn for the scattier yelps and howls that Faris brought to Cat’s Eyes.
But that’s no major quibble. With ‘The Deserters’, Zeffira is demanding to be judged solely on her own merits, rather than the clique she belongs to. Best start giving her what she wants.
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