The variety of Kate Tempest’s work might suggest an artist who’s not entirely sure of herself. You might even think that her work is scattershot, spread across albums (Everybody Down, 2014), novels (The Bricks that Built The Houses), and more. Yet what comes of her latest album is a surprisingly and scathingly consistent piece of art, that sounds weird or unusual at first listen, but if you take the effort to dig deep into it, you will find gold. It is one of the greatest musical (if it can be categorised that way) achievements of 2016, that defies definition, wonderfully spread across genres and different mediums.
Tempest paints a colourful smorgasbord of characters, who are deeply based in reality, or at least her perception of it. With her lyrics, roaming the streets of London, she observes the people around her, trying to understand what these people are going through, and how they cope with their own lives. Her characters are everyday folk, who cannot really understand the world around them, so they try to do whatever it takes to survive. And that brings us to the background Tempest is putting these characters in front of. The personal, everyday problems connect, and soon it becomes an intriguing canvas of today’s issues. ‘Europe is lost, America lost, London lost/ Still we are clamoring victory’, she claims in one of the best songs of the record, ‘Europe is Lost’, then narrows her focus to the individual a few lines later: ‘But even the drugs have got boring/ Well, sex is still good when you get it’. The scope is huge, yet still intimate.
“Tempest paints a colourful smorgasbord of characters, who are deeply based in reality, or at least her perception of it”
Tempest’s social commentary is delivered through an eclectic array of musical tools, varying between hip-hop, rap, electronic and poetry. This is a truly valuable, almost inexhaustible record that cries with the helplessness of Tempest’s generation, while never becoming pretentious, or predictable. Brilliant.