Fast Food feels a little bit like how I imagine it feels going to church. Sombre and mournful, but awesome in the biblical, rather than Surfer sense.
Single, ‘Fool’, is like sunshine on a stony interior. In some respects it’s perfect for easing you in, if Nadine Shah is new to you. Its structure is familiar and welcome. The song builds up and crashes at the chorus but does not lose its cool. Steady bass guitar and drums, almost tribal, work as in synch as two clapping hands. The slightly off-kilter ethnic guitar draws everything together like shiny twine, which along with Nadine’s deep, rich, Alison Moyet-like, occasionally trilling and Newcastle (I had to look that up) accented voice, works. However, like a great many singles it isn’t wholly representative of the album – it’s far easier to like.
But if you like any one of the other tracks, chances are you will like it all, because, at least on the first few listens it all sounds quite the same, although this same is quite a unique mix of sophisticated grunge and laconic world music. Less classical and fairytale whimsy than previous album, Love Your Dum And Mad (& less like This Mortal Coil) Fast Food manages folk, as in the title track; you discern Nirvana’s guitars on tracks, ‘Matador’ and ‘Divided’, the latter also reminiscent of the slower tracks of Foo Fighters. Feel Joy Division in ‘The Gin One’ and Depeche Mode. The long build to the chorus in ‘Stealing Cars’ alludes to U2 but sounds most like The Cure.
In terms of atmosphere Nadine Shah has haunting down to a T. There is disquiet and unease aplenty. Heavy usage of minor chords makes this an uneasy listen. The experience of this album is a lot more palpable than is often the case, it has more about it. The question is then, are you ready for such a pilgrimage?
It’s been a fight with a demon unpicking Fast Food. I’m not sure I like it, but I respect it, like I might a bull. Fast Food does not improve on listening, you get better at handling it.