Not familiar with Little Fish yet? Where the hell have you been? After a year of tallying up support slots for Hole, Placebo, Them Crocked Vultures and most recently Blondie (and a handful of other big names in between) their debut album Baffled And Beat is finally set to see the light of day. Live, Little Fish have an energy so raw that there was a fear that this might not translate on the album. Thankfully producer Linda Perry seems to have recognised this factor and it’s no surprise then, that over half the album has been recorded live.
Juju may have been likened to Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, and there are equally shades of Paula Cole, but in many senses she defies comparison. What’s most impressive is the variation and manipulation of Juju’s voice, whilst Bang! Bang! sees her almost rap her way through the vocals, this transforms in Darling Dear to an unorthodox wail, fuelled by passion. Elsewhere she fills her sound with sorrow, Heroin Dance being so painfully powerful that it becomes a twisted paradox in itself. It’s the kind of emotional jerker that leaves you wondering if you want to turn it up or turn it off.
The album in entirety rises and falls like a heartbeat, Nez’s imperative drum beats powering through each track. Whether it’s with the muffled tribal beats of Die Young or the sympathetic accompaniments to Sorry State he makes it clear why the duo created such an impact in their early days. Though it’s ultimately Juju & Nez that give the album its vigour, the combination of the Hammond in You, Me & The TV adds depth and warmth to their sounds, justifying it’s recent addition to their live line up.
In fact, the only part of the album that seems to stick is Sweat N Shiver. Whilst the rest are raw and edgy, this track seems to have been coated with a layer of Windowlene, the sounds somewhat over produced and the vocals oozing with syrup. Whilst it works as a stand alone track, or perhaps as part of a more produced pop style album it seems to jar in context of the other rough and ready tracks, which mark this album as something extraordinary.
Juju describes the process of song writing as akin to ‘an exorcism’ and whilst Nez seems to pound away the demon with his drum kit, Juju’s vocals sting with anguish. Lyrically however it’s a different story, the narratives being what the Indigo Girls might describe as ‘poetry in motion’. Each song is as different as night and day, the distinction between Nez and Juju culminating into an album full of contradiction, both within and between songs. Simple it seems has produced power and whether you favour the 2 chord, punk driven Darling Dear or the gut wrenching Heroin Dance, Baffled And Beat is an innovative offering with some serious attitude.