Not so much John Cale’s lost offspring as Nico’s clone.
Andy Fyfe 2009
You would hardly expect a label founded by chief Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys to debut with anything straightforward. True to form, he’s found folky waif Cate Le Bon, a Cardiff-based singer-songwriter straight out of Velvet Underground central casting, not so much John Cale’s lost offspring as Nico’s clone.
There’s a darkness running through Me Oh My, set out on the opening title track’s very first lines: “Me oh my / My oh me / I fought the night and the night fought me”. From there on in, the album’s uneasy claustrophobia suggests the solitary melancholy of endless nights over-analysing life while staring at the walls, which bears out Le Bon’s claim she only writes in the dark.
The Velvets comparisons become stronger the deeper you delve: Le Bon’s flat, Nico-lite delivery renders her heavy Welsh accent surprisingly Teutonic, her lyrics like ghost breath on the back of your neck (“I’d go blind to save you / and not go looking to take it back / it’s just, baby, I’m heading for the black”, from Sad Sad Feet, or how about “I want to burn until the end” from, um, Burn Until the End). Meanwhile, the music switches between tender melodies, spiky, discordant excursions or droning repetition. Sound familiar? When the influence is at its most obvious, on Sad Sad Feet, say, Le Bon could be parodying The Velvet Underground’s Pale Blue Eyes.
Which might suggest a deeply scarred and tragic life, but as Le Bon admits her only brushes with death and loss were formative experiences losing pets it rather diminishes any feeling of cathartic release. Perhaps, though, in a strange way, the fact Le Bon can fashion such haunting ghoulishness from a relatively glib root trauma (come on, nobody over 10 years old loves their pets that much) makes her even more interesting.
In a word, Me Oh My is ‘kooky’, but what the hell: one person’s tragedy is another’s Fast Show sketch.