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Countdown to Aerial 7: The Red Shoes

There's a strong critical consensus that Kate's seventh studio album is her weakest. The consensus is not wrong, but I'm not sure the reasons for the record's failure are well understood.
The Red Shoes is not at all a bad album. If it had been awful, it would have been better. If Kate had gone out on a limb and failed heroically, creating a memorably rubbish album, she would at least have gone out on a limb with memorable results. Instead, the only innovation we get is a few tracks on which she attempts to make danceable, funk- and Latin-inspired music, and sort-of succeeds.
The album has few actual faults. A few tracks, most notably "Eat The Music", could have done with a serious trimming and her collaboration with Prince, "Why Should I Love You" falls rather flat through no obvious fault of either artist, but on the whole, The Red Shoes is listenable. It gets the odd spin at the studio, from people other than me, even. It just... doesn't grab, doesn't irritate, doesn't connect.
Again, there is the ponderousness creeping in. Many fans single out "Moments of Pleasure" as an exceptionally strong, emotionally convincing composition; I find it awkward and over-wrought although the piano and orchestration work are nice.
Highlights for me on the album are "Lily" with its urgent beat and vocals and Kaballa-derived lyrics (yup, Kate practised Kaballa before Kaballa was cool) and "Big Stripy Lie" in which Kate plays deliberately crude guitar and bass parts over a rudimentary beat. The mood is lifted in a few places within songs: by the Star Trek pastiche in "Constellations of the Heart", Gary Brooker's organ work on "You're The One" and Kate singing "I don't want your bullshit" on "Song of Solomon" which has the Trio Bulgarka backing her again. But for the most part, The Red Shoes just goes right through me.
Postscript: It benefits from playing it louder. Still not her best.

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