Since the fated day when she picked up her guitar to write her first song, Beth Jeans Houghton and her band The Hooves of Destiny have thrown themselves between genres, knocking out a handful of commercial folk tunes before finally entering the studio to record their debut album. Given that it’s taken five years to produce, Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose might shock fans who aren’t au fait with her recent change in direction. The album is more heightened and fraught than anything she’s released previously, but its unprecedented style is definitely something to embrace.
It’s become normal for reviewers to spend at least half of their article commenting on Houghton’s latest foray into the world of fashion. Goodness knows why. Unfortunately that focus on her apparel often overshadows any real reference to her music. The clothes Beth wears have about as much to do with her song writing as the direction the wind is blowing on any given day; they could affect her live performance but should never distract from what a home-grown, outstanding talent she is. Hopefully the incredible majesty of her first widely publicised release will put an end to that insulting preoccupation.
…Because Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose ushers in 2012 with one gigantic slice of choral mayhem. The galloping jaunt of opener ‘Sweet Tooth Bird’ make for an unconventional introduction to an album that constantly tests structural boundaries. The whimsical cluck of debut single ‘Golden’ has been completely eradicated, in place of the band’s refusal to take a breath and simmer down, best demonstrated on ‘Liliputt’. The songs also defy genre: as soon as you think you’ve caught hold of ‘Atlas’, a deceptive song that starts out all indie disco but quickly sinks into madness, it melts into a withdrawn and downtrodden lullaby.
The persistent influx of clatter in the foreground of Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose also does wonders for the album. On the rare occasion Beth’s fevered delirium approaches a normal temperature there’s still some honky-tonk in the background to confirm that the listener remains safely on planet coo-coo land. This is undoubtably an album to get lost in, and perhaps to lose your mind to.
If one theme can be drawn from the glorious rambling of Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, it’s Houghton’s penchant for triumphant choruses. The album’s splendour really kicks in with second track ‘Humble Digs’, where the effect of Beth’s velveteen operatic vocal resembles an alcohol-fuelled rumpus at an Elizabethan banquet. Added to an already shambolic record, it’s the kind of tactic that could blow an album over the line from inspired to indigestible, but there’s something about Beth’s unique approach that resolves the problem and consumes the listener.
Even in their sweet and charming moments, Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny’s independence of spirit prevents them from entering saccharine territory. Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose will get your nerves jangling without bringing a tear to your eye or pigeonholing Beth as “another girl with her guitar”. And most importantly, it gives critics a lot more to talk about than Beth’s clothes, or the colour of her hair.