Gwyneth Herbert Clangers & Mash Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

The fragility of Herbert’s performance is beautiful.

John Eyles 2010

Clanger and Mash is not really the follow-up to Gwyneth Herbert’s sublime All the Ghosts album, more an appendix to it. Of its nine tracks, four are remixes of tracks from its predecessor proper and another is a song that didn’t make it onto that album. Labelled as a mini-album, this set runs for just under 33 minutes and only includes one new song, Perfect Fit, which is featured in three separate versions. The fact that Perfect Fit is Herbert’s new single best explains the format of this release.

Fortunately, Perfect Fit is one of Herbert’s most engagingly melodic compositions, a jaunty sing-along sure to lift anyone’s spirits. The original version features ukulele accompaniment plus handclaps that ideally complement Herbert’s upbeat vocals and lyrics. The shorter radio edit adds a version of the chorus likely to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as Herbert harmonises with herself.

Check out the infectious joy of the song’s chorus. You’ll probably be singing it before long: "Look at my life / look at my dreams / and the wonder that the sky it seems so blue / soooooo blue / and I smile as I sit / because I’ve found my perfect fit and it is you / yeeeees it’s you." Such life-affirming stuff deserves to become a big hit.

In addition to the single, there is plenty on Clangers and Mash to savour. Like most remixes, those here will only make sense to someone familiar with the original versions. Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford transforms My Mini & Me into a much starker, stripped-down plea than the original, by emphasising Herbert’s heartfelt vocals. On a remix of Perfect Fit without Herbert’s voice, Mr Solo sings like a cross between Bowie and Scott Walker. It suggests that the song could become a standard.

The power of Herbert’s vocals is re-emphasised by the album’s closing track, Midnight Oil, from her album Between Me and the Wardrobe, given an a cappella treatment in which her voice oozes emotion. The fragility of Herbert’s performance is beautiful but makes for almost painful listening.

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