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Album review: Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful? by Paloma Faith

PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:54 05 October 2010

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PALOMA Faith is Hackney s number one chart bound songstress. There s an urge to label her as another female performer tiptoeing in the footsteps of Amy Winehouse, but that would be wrong. If Winehouse had never existed you wonder whether we would have eve

PALOMA Faith is Hackney's number one chart bound songstress.

There's an urge to label her as another female performer tiptoeing in the footsteps of Amy Winehouse, but that would be wrong.

If Winehouse had never existed you wonder whether we would have ever heard of Duffy. Without Winehouse, Paloma Faith would still have arrived.

From a St Trinian's Emo Schoolgirl to the fabulously dressed Broken Doll of her album she has charted a strange course through the choppy waters of fame.

Half Spanish (paloma is Spanish for dove), she has an MA in Time Based Arts (whatever that is) and worked variously as a magician's assistant, a funfair ghost and for Agent Provocateur.

We've had to wait a long time to hear Paloma Faith's first work. If you leave aside the strange production of a Christmas warble with Josh Weller last year, it wasn't until June that we got a release.

Only now, in mid-September after a summer of festival appearances, do we get a second single, New York, released this week, and the forthcoming album Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful.

This is no flyaway piece of pop. Every song is richly constructed with multiple layers. The artwork for her album is dramatic. There's the pair of doves, the 'beautiful' flowers and then the 'truth' of the radiator and slatted windows just visible behind.

The horn section that drives forward Stone Cold Sober, the album's opener and her first single, has a racing passion to add power to her strangely captivating voice.

There are flavours of her burlesque roots, a little Bjork and, by logical progression, a taste of The Mummers about her voice and the stunning orchestration of her songs.

The phrase 'the show is over' crops up amid the swirling strings of Smoke & Mirrors - the lyrics here are well tied together - as part of the continuing stage show mood.

The album's title track is a magnificent construction from the opening piano, strings and guitar. The echo, the background harmonies, all of it right to the dying 'but do you want me' is stunning.

But the new single, New York, is the diamond among these gems. A brilliant tale stripped bare at the start bar the sound of traffic, the lines of the first verse 'she stood so tall and she never slept' indicate where the story is heading.

It is a tale about a girl who loses her lover to city and the new life it offers, brilliantly written with a totally honest feel.

The intro to the epic closer Play On sounds alarmingly like the start to an ELO classic and then develops into a song with Queen style backing vocals - there's certainly enough drama and staginess for Freddie Mercury.

But that is the truth about the whole album; it's a stage show, a performance full of drama, colour and exhibitionism.

It's a work of joy and fascination. Yes, something beautiful.

Tim Cole


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