Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Nadine Shah recommits to herself on Filthy Underneath

"Filthy Underneath"

Release date: 23 February 2024
Nadine Shah Filthy Underneath cover
23 February 2024, 09:30 Written by John Amen

Blending sonics that range from quirky to sensual, punk-sexy vocals, and lyrics that would tickle Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Plath alike, Nadine Shah releases her new LP, Filthy Underneath.

Guided by Ben Hillier, who has produced each of Shah’s five albums, Filthy spotlights Shah as she further hones a well-established MO, forging fine balances between chaos and coherence.

The set opens with the catchy “Evening Light”, built around pop synths and garage-style beats. Verses brim with randy metaphors (“I want to get inside your house / I want to have a proper nose about”) while choruses erupt with glossolalic word associations (“Sinatra viagra iguana / sharia Diana samosa”), Shah’s ferocity brings to mind Diamanda Galás’s gothy abandon.

With “Food for Fuel”, the band drops into the background, Shah’s voice notably languorous. “You Drive, I Shoot”, on the other hand, nudges the band onto centre stage, an artsy bass-and-beatscape recalling Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads. Oblique images alternately evoke someone being forced into a drive-by robbery and transported to a doctor for a treatment they might not want. Occurring as a veiled take on PTSD, the piece triggers a palpable sense of disorientation.

“Sad Lads Anonymous” spotlights Shah as she broaches a spoken-word style a la Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw, though Shah’s musings are more narratively driven and less indebted to Brion Gysin’s cut-up method. Addressing the elusiveness of self-actualization and the ridiculousness of quick fixes, Shah strives to weed out negative self-talk and access her real inner voice (“knowing that nothing is a better option than me”).

With “Greatest Dancer”, the band refreshingly tilts toward a late-night pop-disco sound, shimmery synths emerging between verses. The track grows heavier, inching toward rave-infused gestalt, Shah innovatively merging dance and industrial vibes. “Twenty Things” similarly leans in a revved-up direction, including the use of reverberant drums. Shah’s voice is defective and reticent, exuding an unsureness that contrasts starkly with her usual intrepidity.

“Hyperrealism” unfurls as one of Shah’s more eloquent takes on life’s unpredictability. Experience is organic and random. The self isn’t isolated but rather a product of context. Shah searches “ghosts, familiar places” for old bearings but finds only new possibilities that ache to be born, despite her ambivalence (“I can’t get my head around it / just when I had thought I’d found it / I can’t get a way back”).

With Filthy Underneath, Shah doesn’t necessarily reinvent herself, though she certainly recommits to honesty, vulnerability, and stepping out of comfort zones, all the while documenting an important self-initiation. She seeks awareness and empty spaces, as well as courage to abandon the past, and truly begin again.

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