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Cigarettes & Housework
     

Cigarettes & Housework

by Rachel Fuller
 
The ranks of piano-based pop singers have swelled in recent years, and Rachel Fuller's debut adds another compelling voice to that list. Fans of Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Paula Cole would do well to check out Cigarettes & Housework, the first pop recording from the

Overview

The ranks of piano-based pop singers have swelled in recent years, and Rachel Fuller's debut adds another compelling voice to that list. Fans of Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Paula Cole would do well to check out Cigarettes & Housework, the first pop recording from the classically trained singer-songwriter. (Fuller was behind the arrangements on Pete Townshend's ambitious Lifehouse project, and he returns the favor here by playing acoustic and electric guitar throughout.) Dissecting relationships with a poet's eye, Fuller turns out songs such as the angsty "Into My Heart," an ode to unrequited love, and the winsome ballad "Eat Me," a meditation on fatal attraction that draws metaphors from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Her training is mainly in service to welcoming pop songs, such as the delirious "Spin" and the more typically subdued "Happy to Be Sad," about a lover still dwelling on a past relationship. Throughout, Fuller's sparklingly clear voice shines like a ray of spring sunlight, though it takes on a vaguely bluesy lilt on the disc-closing "In the Mirror," which suggests the passion and melodic sensibility of Stevie Nicks. Naturally, Fuller orchestrated her own arrangements here, but she makes the most use of her background on the aptly titled instrumental "Lament," a spare, cello-led song that surely paves a path for her as a film scorer. But for now, count Cigarettes & Housework as a welcome addition to the thinking-woman's pop-singer pantheon.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Singer/songwriter Rachel Fuller's debut album, Cigarettes & Housework, is the kind of record one used to hear quite regularly. Fuller is a classically trained pianist, composer, and arranger whose previous works have been recorded by the London Chamber Orchestra (which performs here as well). She has also orchestrated portions of partner Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Chronicles. Her songs are elegant and graceful affairs musically, and wonderfully gritty, vulnerable slice-of-life stories lyrically. The combination of the two creates a kind of emotional tension that pulls the listener in many directions, making equanimity all but impossible. Fuller's tomes dig under the skin; they seek to scratch an itch until it bleeds and celebrate the flow of blood from the scars of living and loving. If this sounds morbid, it hardly is; she simply doesn't have time for mindless generalities, spineless pondering, or idle chitchat. She celebrates the melancholy not as a way of wallowing in the mud, but as a way of practicing radical acceptance of situations, relationships, and the self. In short, she poetically faces the inner spaces: she records every attempt at self-deception and practices great empathy for all of her protagonists in the first or third person. And she does so poetically. Townshend and his brother Simon guest with her band, as does bassist Pino Palladino. But this is all Fuller. The lush and poignant title track that opens the album with glissando piano and tempered rhythm accompaniment states with detachment: "My teenage years were full of fear/I spent most of them inside...Playing my piano, writing a requiem for me/Thinking I could clean up all the trouble from yesterday/Or hoping that my cigarette smoke would carry it away/I have come through the trouble of youth/But once in a while I still find myself/Naked in the kitchen, smoking in the hall, vacuuming the sofa trying to make sense of it all." There's the tender scar left by heartbreak in "Into My Heart," the raw need of "Eat Me," and the glorious celebration of the beloved's person in "Imperfection." Rock, pop, and classical textures swirl together, shimmering in the foreground, carrying the singer along, allowing her to open and look into the abyss without flinching. The effect is not one of catharsis, but of encounter, leaving the end result for the listener to determine. Fuller's musicality is head and shoulders above her peers; in her lush and textured version of musical and poetic realism she exposes Sarah Brightman for the pretentious phony she is, and in her willingness to go further and wider she makes Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan sound like they are spoiled children. This is adult music. It looks at the pop song as a way of expressing what is normally felt but nearly always hidden away; its expression of hope and willingness is tempered and strengthened by its wondrous candor and musical sophistication. Bravo.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/10/2004
Label:
Umvd Labels
UPC:
0602498631126
catalogNumber:
000305502

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Rachel Fuller   Primary Artist,Piano,Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals
Pete Townshend   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Simon Townshend   Acoustic Guitar
Mark Brzezicki   Percussion,Drums
London Session Orchestra   Strings
Pino Palladino   Bass
Gavyn Wright   Leader
Stuart Ross   Bass
Josh Phillips   Keyboards
Liam Bates   Conductor
Jolyon Dixon   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Pascal Glaville   Chapman Stick
Jodie Hawkes   Percussion,Drums
Sally Heath   Piano
London Chamber Orchestra   Strings
Jonathan Williams   Cello,Soloist

Technical Credits

Keith Grant   Engineer
Pete Lewis   Engineer
Joe Youle   Composer
Rachel Fuller   Composer,Producer,Orchestration
Myles Clarke   Engineer
Terry McGough   Art Direction

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