I saw something on Twitter the other day that made me laugh. “Stop worrying what other people think”, it said. “Have you seen other people? They’re awful.”
Of course, like all jokes there’s an element of truth contained therein. And anyone who’s had any form of counselling for anxiety knows that you can’t stop worrying what others think.
To that end, I’ve met Carol Hodge once. She was playing keyboards for Ryan Hamilton at a venue that is particularly difficult for people that can’t walk very well. I was on my own and coming down the stairs on my arse after the show. Carol saw this, asked me if I was alright, and took my sticks down to the bottom for me. It was a lovely thing to do and I was/am grateful to her. It is exactly the reason I hate going to the place. It’s embarrassing, and I get myself worked up in case others think I can’t manage. I can’t, but….
The reason for telling the world this? Well, take a listen to “Vertiginous Drops” and see if you agree that Carol Hodge might understand.
Not only is there a song on here called “Never Run Out Of Things To Worry About”, an electro, post-punk, almost dancefloor ready thing that reasons “I have no doubt, that I’ll never run out of things to worry about”, but the personal is infused all the way through these ten songs. It always is with Hodge’s works. It’s what makes her albums so good.
Her background is in punk rock (she’s Steve Ignorant’s keyboard player and collaborator and toured with Crass), but her solo stuff is full of lush pop music like “Best Will In The World” on which she bares her soul, offering “there’s always time to work nine to nine before 40 years of your plan b” as a rallying call – perhaps to herself – to make things happen.
It’s a varied record, this one, the superb “The Price” sees Ginger Wildheart guest and a hook that explodes. It’s immediately followed up with the gloriously melancholy, yet somehow stoic piano of “Grayson (Things Always Could Be Worse)” – a total change of tone, yet somehow still totally in keeping.
Chris Catalyst is on “Clean The Slate” (the title of the record comes from one of its lines) which has a choral opening, and the longest song here “Giving It Up Now” has the words: “one thing’s for sure, I am not sure anymore”. That being said, musically, it and the wider album, sound totally certain. Working with Dave Draper – responsible for most of the cool music released in Britain these days it seems – has given this an incredible depth, almost prog in places (and I know I shouldn’t say those words to a punk!).
“Oh Amanda” is an interesting one. Tinkling away like it belongs on a film soundtrack, it’s an expression of disappointment in a hero. No idea who, its probably not Amanda Holden, but when you were a kid and your mum said: “I am not angry I am just disappointed, there was nothing worse, so Amanda, take that!
In fact, Hodge is settling scores all over the shop, here. “Bitch, Don’t Take My Serenity” is angry – and I’ve a fair idea it might be at herself – but its also a vehicle for her wonderful voice. Many of them could be in musicals. They’ve got that depth and “Wrong Side Of The Glass” shows that better than anything else does here. Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld/Cardiacs) underlines that perfectly, as does “Silhouettes”. In many ways it brings the curtain down in somewhat fragile fashion, but its very much a message of empowerment and hope.
Maybe Carol Hodge wrote all this to remind herself rather than anything else, but “Vertiginous Drops” will resonate loud and clear with many. And even if the lyrics mean nothing to you, then to listen to the record – and its one you need to live with for a while, there’s nothing ephemeral and instant here, the way music used to be before it was just another app on a phone – then to listen to it, is to listen to one of the most innovative solo artists around right now.