Erstwhile operating as a riot grrl channelling spoken word poet, Romance for the Lonely sees Kitty Got Claws (KGC) trade in her rhymes for a more vocal delivery with a quartet of emotionally charged songs.
It is a widely observed truth that, while the self-pitying preoccupation of heartbreak may feel all-consuming to the sufferer, it largely fails to inspire the same resonance for the casual observer. Unfortunately, it’s an insight which KGC fails to take heed of. From the lovelorn to the love-lost, the EP deals thematically with the darker sides of romance. However, equal shades melodramatic and hackneyed, none of it particularly captivates. Characteristic is closing track ‘Window’ which fades out with the repeated refrain: ‘Our love is driving me damn near crazy / please just say if you love or you hate me’. Elsewhere, she repeatedly opines about the fact that ‘my love is dead’. So far, so sixth-form.
These lyrical failings are rendered all the more frustrating when taken in the context of KGC’s wider output. In a string of singles and guest features released over the past year, KGC has established herself as a decently accomplished and uncompromising lyricist. Staying true to her name, earlier releases dealt in incisive character assassinations and lyrical take downs of drug-addled fuck boys. But it seems that those claws have been retracted here: the artist evidenced in that earlier output bears scant resemblance to the pitiful character we encounter on this EP.
The production doesn’t help matters, electing to trade in tropes derived straight from the melancholia text book. Piano chords resonate with self-conscious solemnity above dampened drum pads. The whole dirge is swathed in a liberal application of airy atmospherics.
Admittedly, for the most part it’s competently executed: the low end kicks with satisfying weight; with the exception of one ill-advised synthesized sax solo, the elements all fit together quite nicely. At its best, it’s even evocative of trip-hop’s more melancholic ebbs, a sonic reference which is reciprocated in KGC’s vocal style: the languid restraint of her delivery is frequently reminiscent of Hope Fraser’s Massive Attack contributions.
However, indulging the above comparison further only serves to render Romance for the Lonely’s failings more conspicuous. For one thing, while the despondency explored in the work of Portishead, et al., bristled with a paranoid and propulsive tension, the darkness displayed here simply feels draining. The tracks lack dynamism, driven as they are by overly quantized and plodding beats. Instruments frequently have the trappings of having been selected on the basis of obligations to the mix alone, adding little of interest to the compositions, a far cry from the iconoclastic genre-mashing of the trip-hop luminaries.
To finish, a little advice. Sure, heartbreak can feel all consuming, but as anyone will tell you, it doesn’t help anyone to wallow in its misery, far less to subject others to it. It’s always better to pick yourself up and get back in the game. I urge KGC to do just that and get back to what she’s good at.
Released August 10, 2017