Lost Girls: Lost Girls – album review

Lost Girls: Lost Girls (3 Loop Music)

CD/ LP/ DL

Out now

Dusted off and brightened up, the long-lost Lost Girls album is released as a 2CD set featuring all the recordings made by the duo and the group.

According to the press release which accompanies this album Lost Girls are, or more accurately were, a collaboration between the then recently ex-Kitchens Of Distinction singer Patrick Fitzgerald and 4AD chanteuse Heidi Berry. The duo wrote and recorded this album in 1998-1999, with one single, Needle’s Eye, being the only track which saw a release at the time. A quote from Fitzgerald earlier this year suggests that the songs are perhaps “ragged and raw, done and undone”. Whether this is false modesty, or that the passage of time has impaired his memory somewhat, that description does not describe the music I hear on this remarkable (if only for the fact that it remained unreleased!) album.

As the first track All Fall Away opens, the sonic-clang discordant guitar sound intro might lead one to suspect that the album is going to tread a familiar late 80s/early 90s shoe-gazey aural path. This isn’t the case, as Berry’s vocal leads the song into epic territory, falling just on the right side of anthemic, her voice redolent of Cowboy Junkies’ Margot Timmins meets Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.

Not being privy to the songwriting credits on the album, it’s not apparent whether the songs are co-written or not. For at least some of the tracks though, the lead vocals are either Fitzgerald or Berry rather than them both singing together which perhaps offers some clue. The Fitzgerald-led tracks revisit something of the expansive, plaintive riffing that was an aspect of his work with Kitchens Of Distinction. These songs have a brilliant knack of being hook laden pop/rock but with a skewed edge, particularly on the flowing melancholic vibe meets almost Cult-like guitar work of NYC and more straightforward feel of Hold Me Down.

The Berry-led vocal tracks are an altogether more intimate affair, as evidenced on the understated soulfulness of Forgiven and the strangely disorientating, almost foreboding stylings of Japanese. The single Needles’ Eye, again sang by Berry, wanders into electro-folk territory with a splash of dance which perhaps is the song on the album which sounds most dated.

It is the tracks where both Fitzgerald and Berry share vocal duties where the album gels together best, Hovercraft effortlessly pulling off a mixture of the two singers’ styles to make marvellously atmospheric pop, and Abduction a yearning, positively beautiful piece of music.

There is mania here, too. The excellent Opiated Self-Help Song displays a wonderfully claustrophobic lyric set against equally free-wheeling, piano-led music, and the acoustic-led A Reason To Live is positively psychedelic. The album proper concludes with the instrumental, near-as-dammit ambient vibe of Seen Before, which put this listener in mind of a nascent Boards Of Canada. Which can only be a good thing.

The bonus disc accompanying this album comprises different versions of four of the tracks on disc one and five bonus tracks. Of these special mention must go to the unhinged primal screamage of Folk Fuck (think early Jesus And Mary Chain, with a sequencer, blindfolded in a room with chainsaws chasing Hope Sandoval) and the incredible folk-vocal workout of Bathing Song.

In conclusion then, not the ragged and raw collection of songs Fitzgerald feared. An accomplished, expertly written and executed set of songs with a production as lush and welcoming as those songs deserve.

The Lost Girls album has been described as a great lost album by fans of the artists that made it and indeed it is a great shame that is has taken over 15 years to get a proper release. It has, until now, been robbed of the attention and praise it clearly richly deserved all along.

~

All words by Philip Thompson, find his Louder Than War archive here.

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