I’ve tried to stick by Beth Orton – because, at the time, I loved those first two records – but it really is a career of diminishing returns. What felt like, almost, the start of a mild comeback with Sugaring Season (and also – not really much of one either) further devolves here with Kidsticks; there’s just been no momentum to her career across its second half: a record, a huge break, a record, lurch, repeat, lurch, repeat.
And Kidsticks cloaks her vocals and hides the songs in a fog of electronica that is all at once aiming for the wrong generation – I would think – and sounding phoney and dated. On Dawnstar and Falling she sounds like a very tired Annie Lennox. And these are highlights. Petals is a gauzy remainder of a song – little snatches, half-baked ideas; the same is true with most of this album in fact.
It’s not Orton playing her natural game.
This sort of thing can be done – I remember Rickie Lee Jones’ haunting and spectacular Ghostyhead where the singer/songwriter hid inside odd productions and was merely peeking out now and again, but it was wonderful. Somewhat ironically perhaps that album seemed to disappear without much of a care, probably because its intended audience was hooked up on the first two Beth Orton albums.
There’s nothing to see here. And even less to hear. Move on. Move past. Move fast…