2007: Moksha/Island/Universal 1717312

  1. Damage
  2. Overkill
  3. Like a Book
  4. Same Ground Again
  5. Guilty
  6. Chances
  7. Out of This World
  8. Wish You Were Here
  9. Thief
  10. Under Fire
  11. Not Enough Love
  12. Cruel Heart
  13. Marching Orders
  14. Your Life

I am astonished to find that Kosheen just get better with each new album. From Kokopelli to this album, the songcrafting (which really only got started at the latter edge of their first album, Resist) has been tightened and the sonic palette brought more closely to pair with it. Where Kokopelli had songs that could trudge on quite a long time and perhaps leave you lost in the darkness of the mood, the Damage songs have better encapsulations of things to deliver lyrics with a punch rather than as a parallel element.

Probably “Marching Orders” is my favorite track on this album (with “Thief” a very close second despite a whiff of unnecessary-as-always AutoTune here and there) although I don’t know if I could say why that is…it just is. None of the others stands out quite as much, to me, but there aren’t any I dislike or want to skip when I play the whole album. (Well, maybe “Out of This World” is a little too vague in its identity, and the album-closer “Your Life” is all dark curtains and harsh-lit woe without a clear picture underneath it all.)

“Under Fire” doesn’t grab me initially but does become rather engaging with its lyrics. (Although again there is that AutoTune touch here and there, which is enough to sink an entire album for me just because it’s used at all except ironically. “Not Enough Love” has it as well, but it almost works in the stilted context of the track. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Sian Evans just has a quirky voice that happens to adjust to pitches with an odd suddenness, but I doubt it; most of the time her voice is lovely in its smoothness, so those abrupt steps do stand out suspiciously.)

For sure they kicked off the album with a track intended to keep fans faithful: dark, heavy, grinding machinery plods and echoes with vocals slow to arrive and all about romantic roadkill. Yet the lyrics and the melody are surprisingly solid: it may be scandalous to suggest this, to those who are purely into dark-techno music (and I confess I don’t see the appeal of it for more than a track here or there amid more varied terrain), but the title track would probably be quite good as just an acoustic performance.

If there’s a Kosheen “sound,” I guess it’s that of pain (sometimes merely its soft form, sorrow) alternating between brooding and howling. Stepping from the first track to the second here is a great demonstration of what can be mined from even that limited range. Yet on this album they bring in a little Pop pacing as well, as on “Like a Book,” which is an interesting mix of styles and in some ways hearkens back to the first album’s brighter moments. One thing that’s odd here, however, is that the songs all seem to end so abruptly, like squalls.

I quite like Kosheen now. The heaviness of the sound can be a little wearing, but they’ve grown to leaven that pointlessly gloomy mass with melody and lyrical content to much better effect. It helps that the tracks are all shorter than those of Kokopelli (or at least they seem to be), thus the listener doesn’t forget what the first part of the song was like by the time the machinery finally stops thumping.