This set of thirteen darkly lyrical songs, sonically swells and ebbs with Martha Wainwright’s occasionally warbled, always raw voice. With Kate Bush-like confidence, she eschews enunciation for raw emotional impact, unafraid to adopt a timbre that might be annoying if it were not so refreshingly transparent. You might not always be sure what she is saying, but you are always sure of what she is feeling, a misery dripping with anger born of regret and hard loving.
Raw pathos aside, lyrically Wainwright’s blunt presentation is often hampered by trite rhymes and awkward repetition of phrases. You would think, coming from a family of musicians someone would have told her that rhyming words with themselves is a sign of weak songwriting, while this conceit can be allowed a songwriter every now and again, it happens way too often in this particular set of songs. The lack of strong melodies and an almost self-conscious lack of pop sensibility do not help either.
However, that is not to say there aren’t some gems on this self-titled debut, and she can certainly make her style work for her. “Ball & Chain” bemoans a failed destructive relationship with words like, ‘Yeah her tits were higher than mine / With a waist that is sugar fine / I heard she could read and write too / And she’s getting a degree in fucking you.’ Or the much-touted “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole,” which has to be admired for it’s venom and resentment, and has to be up there on the list of best all time spurned woman songs. Overall, this collection of songs of bitterness and self-destruction are sure to be popular with those who can relate to reveling in your own low self-esteem.