Editor's Review
  • Album Review: She Makes War - Direction of Travel - 6/10
    6/10

Summary

Direction of Travel kicks off with one of the strongest opening songs on an album I’ve heard in a very long time.

6/10
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I’m not a fan of ukuleles. The sound of them sets my nerves on edge. There’s a lot of ukulele on Direction of Travel. But not on the album’s opening track, ‘Drown Me Out’, which doesn’t seem to have any at all. It also happens to be one of the strongest opening songs on an album I’ve heard in a very long time. Bursting with energy and attitude, and with more dynamics than you can shake a drumstick at, ‘Drown Me Out’ is a gritty slice of post-pop, powered by the band put together last year by Laura Kidd – the singer/songwriter behind the She Makes War moniker. 

With thundering drums and pulsating bass, ‘Drown Me Out’ might surprise fans of previous She Makes War albums Disarm and Little Battles, which have tended to be more introspective in their tone and content.

“Direction of Travel kicks off with one of the strongest opening songs on an album I’ve heard in a very long time”

It’s only been a couple of years since I first became aware of She Makes War, and in that time Laura has toured Europe, gigged her way round the UK several times, supported the Levellers, Suede, New Model Army, and others, and has written & performed in her own show at the Edinburgh Fringe. In the next few weeks alone, her gigging schedule takes in Reading, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Norwich, and London. The woman has a work ethic.

She also – as I’ve already mentioned – put a band together and is plainly committed to evolving her sound. Which is evident on the aptly named Direction of Travel. At times it reminded me of early Throwing Muses – I subsequently realised Tanya Donelly of that band (plus Belly, and others) sings on the song ‘Paper Thin’, and appears in the video that accompanies it – and at other times I was reminded of Tori Amos.

‘Drown Me Out’ is followed by ‘Cold Shoulder’, a similarly gritty and edgy number, with driving guitars, a confident arrangement and a catchy chorus. The rest of the album is quieter, more reflective, and more contained; it’s less likely to get your foot tapping, but is no less worthwhile because of that. And yes, there’s ukulele, which some people love and some people don’t.

Direction of Travel is an album with a story to tell. Much of the song writing is plaintive and clearly personal, but without becoming overly sentimental. You won’t need anyone to draw you a diagram to figure out what it’s about but, in short, people are messy, relationships are messy, bad things happen and sometimes they happen for no good reason.

I found the switch from the higher energy opening tracks to the slower paced remainder of the album a bit of a hurdle at first listen. But on persevering it soon becomes clear that this album, as its name suggests, hints at the direction of travel of Laura ‘She Makes War’ Kidd, who is certainly an artist to keep an eye on.

Direction of Travel was released on 8 April, 2016 on The state51 Conspiracy, and you can buy it on Bandcamp and iTunes. More details on the She Makes War website.

‘Drown Me Out’.

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