Gwen Stefani tackles marriage break-up on new album This is What the Truth Feels Like
Album reviews: Gwen Stefani, Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones, Andrew Bird, Laura Gibson, Cullen Omori
Published 01/04/2016 | 11:47
Eamon Carr reviews this week's big album releases...
Gwen Stefani — This is What the Truth Feels Like (Polydor)
There are no winners in the sorry saga of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s break-up. But listening to Gwen’s new album, there’s a sense that, metaphorically, Rossdale might just have dodged a bullet.
Their three little children will, of course, one day inherit the estates of their parents. But what about you and me? Why make us suffer too? We’re innocent.
The good news for Stefani is that this album has shot to No 1 in the States, making her just one of five women to top the charts with solo albums as well as with groups.
This achievement will help sweeten life for Gwen as she snuggles up in her onesie with her latest squeeze, a chunky country singer who guests with her on The Voice.
That American show presents such an appalling vista that it makes you almost want to hug our stout-hearted judges Bressie and Kian Egan. I said, “almost”.
Pop music is a good thing. It helps brighten our day with cheery melodic hooks and springy feel-good rhythms.
Stefani’s new release is her third solo album, her first in a decade. In the meantime, she gave No Doubt another go, despite it resembling a band that performs only afternoon functions at old folks homes.
There’s something perverse in this album’s record-breaking success. Especially since Gwen insists she wasn’t interested in making hits, but expressing the truth.
“I was like, ‘Listen, I don’t care about hits. All I want to do is just say the truth’.”
So we get a bunch of corny bubble-icious confections that lampoon Rossdale, her ex. And another bunch that extol the virtues of the new chap in her life. It’s all about the backstory.
When one of the evangelists wrote in the Bible, “The truth will set you free”, I don’t think he was predicting the latest kidult schlock from Stefani.
It can be done, of course. Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Patti Smith are among those who’ve created art from painful truth. But Gwen is off target. A lame dancehall beat grinds along as she lets rip with the vitriol on Red Flag. “You know how to blow it. You know how to screw it up. Look at you. This is your punishment.”
She chalks life down to experience when she recycles Strictly Come Dancing retiree Bruce Forsyth’s catchline on You’re my Favourite.
The cod-reggae wears thin quickly as Gwen (46) comes over all coquettish. “Whatcha doin’?” she groans to her new boyfriend on Send me a Picture.
Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones — Little Windows (Cooking Vinyl)
Sublime vocal harmonising on a set of emotive new songs that conjure up images of the vintage 50s Americana of the Everly Brothers with requisite guitar twang and clickety-click drums. Catch them at
Andrew Bird — Are You Serious (Concord)
Bird’s studied indie-chamber pop thrills on different levels. The conversation with Fiona Apple on Left Handed Kisses is adult and entertaining. As on the title track, he likes his wordplay and is never dull.
Laura Gibson — Empire Builder (City Slang)
The Oregon folkie has been through some major life changes and, with a sterling trio, she unpicks a new redemptive set that, at times, displays a similar melodic palette to early Laura Viers. Affirmative.
Cullen Omori — New Misery (SubPop)
Smith Westerns’ mailman delivers a charming solo set that, despite its Top 40 aspirations, sounds curiously in thrall to Mercury Rev. Something that, I suspect, wasn’t the original intention.