Second time lucky for Amy Winehouse’s best mate?
Paul Lester 2009-09-02
When Londoner Remi Nicole’s debut album, My Conscience & I, came out towards the end of 2007, she was being touted as a sort of mixed-race Lily Allen, her refusal to go down the R&B route and instead sing her self-penned indie-pop songs of chirpy defiance marking her out as a future star. Unfortunately the album tanked, and she had to go back to the drawing board.
In the interim, Nicole made the odd cameo appearance in the gossip sheets through her friendship with Amy Winehouse, endured a period of depression, and emerged a sadder but wiser 26-year-old. She also had a plan: to make a second album in thrall to original rock’n’roll, to 1950s doo-wop, 1960s girl-group pop and the classic Brill Building songwriters such as Neil Sedaka and Carole King. And so the singer-guitarist taught herself to play keyboards, even the rudiments of drumming, and wrote a clutch of tunes full of melodies both soaring and sorrowful and the kind of shoop-shoops and sha-la-las that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at a drive-in or on prom night.
The result, Cupid Shoot Me, is, loosely speaking, a concept album: the song titles on the rear of the album are linked together so that they tell a story of love and heartbreak. It’s hardly high-concept, but it does mean the songs, heard back to back, provide a narrative arc. It’s not quite as seamless as that sounds. Alongside genre pastiches such as In My Dreams, Standing Tears Apart and the title track, or the La Bamba-esque Another Day, there are tunes that appear to have strayed in from another album, such as Broken Hearted People which is a mess of reggae, pop and Morricone strings, or Loveless which sounds like an Alex Turner ballad. Nice Boy sees Nicole’s two approaches – the quirky indie of her debut and this album’s 1960s-isms – come together for a song that could be a team-up between The Shirelles and early Arctic Monkeys.
It’s all a bit confusing. She would have done better to have stuck to her guns and penned a coherent paean to some mythical middle-American era of high school drama and romance.