Saturday, 28 November 2009

726 CHARLOTTE HATHERLEY, Shuffle, Oxford Zodiac Downstairs, Monday 5 March 2007

After seeing Ash in rude health last week, it's time to see how former Ash Guitarist Charlotte Hatherley is coping, post-her split from Ash. Rachel bought "The Deep Blue", the follow-up to her solo debut CD earlier today, and far from it being full of Belly-esque oblique little pop gems as per her first, "Grey Will Fade", this one was a washed-out, disappointing swathe of bland, trippy pop, almost as if she'd been rummaging through St. Etienne's dustbins for this poor fayre. Thus it was with mixed feelings that we set off in the pouring rain, arriving in time to catch some of Shuffle's loud, overblown and piss-poor cabaret mish-mash of a set.

Notably, the gig was in the Zodiac's smaller downstairs room, and was by no means full when Charlotte brought her 6-piece band on at 9 prompt. "Come closer," she said - never a good sign if your audience are hanging back! Nevertheless she started off with "I Want You To Know", the new single and one of the more upbeat numbers from this new CD. Shorn of the meandering atmospherics, and beefed up with some power chords and tough beats from an impressive drummer, this sounded considerably better "live", and raised hopes notably for better fayre. This was underlined by a spiky "Kim Wilde", and the dreamy pop lilt of "Summer", both from the first CD and delivered well. We're off to a great start!

That however was about it - the insubstantial, drifting "Be Thankful" followed, as did a clutch of disappointing and frankly dull new numbers, making the set mid-section an attention-wandering chore. Only a venomous but sloppy "Bastardo" caught the attention as Charlotte, visibly irked that the new material wasn't going down well, went through the motions.

Despite only muted cheers, we had the obligatory encore; a fine cover of XTC's "This Is Pop", 30 years old, yet the freshest thing on the menu. Only 45 minutes in total too - Lotte's starting from scratch again, and on tonight's evidence, it may be a long way back.

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