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Rhonda Harris - The Trouble With

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 21 / 1 / 2002



Rhonda Harris - The Trouble With
Label: Flower Shop
Format: CD

intro

Latest offering from Flower Shop Recordings label by Scandinavian band Rhonda Harris is sung part in English, part in Danish, and while reminiscent on some songs of Prefab Sprout and Leonard Cohen, proves quickly difficult to pigeonhole to any category.


The U.K. seems to have trouble accepting and enjoying records sung in anything but English, unless it’s a one-off novelty song, of course. I’m as guilty as the next man so it’s a pleasant surprise to find that three tracks on this album from Danish band Rhonda Harris, which are, at least partly, sung in Danish, are so captivating and melodic it doesn’t seem to matter that us Brits can’t understand what the hell they are singing about! It just underlines how well the actual music is played and produced and how strong the melodies are. Although masterminded by producer/musician/songwriter/singer Nikolaj Norlund this record is very much a group effort; it would be a very different sounding album without the dreamy Scandinavian tones of additional vocalist and keyboardist Lise Westzynthius. Her vocals contrast well with Norlund’s more sombre delivery.   In starting the album off with the track ‘Young Girl And A Cowboy’ Rhonda Harris seem to set their stall out as being the love child of Prefab Sprout and Saint Etienne. Opening with some strange keyboard sounds ,and with vocals from Norlund, it sounds like a well-crafted pop song that Paddy McAloon could have written. Then at just 29 seconds in Lise’s breathy vocals come in and turn what sounded like the makings of a well produced pop song into something suddenly much more interesting and enchanting. The next track,’ Big Star’, - not a tribute to the band of the same name- confirms the Prefab Sprout comparisons, as does the third track, ‘Kaempechok’ (translation: Huge Shock). This is one of the songs which, being a mixture of Danish and English, should, on paper at least, be the least likely song to make you want to hit the replay button ,but for it works well. Norlund’s vocals in the Danish part take on a much deeper and dark tone than the parts he sings on the English chorus. Paddy McAloon meets a Danish Leonard Cohen? Maybe. There is, after all, a cover of Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ on offer here as well. From track four, ‘I Heard You Never Told Her’, things get really strange indeed. From here, and for the rest of the album, the group cannot be pigeonholed. This is an extremely catchy (and extremely odd) song where the English parts are, apparently, taken from the traditional song ‘Early In The Morning’. A traditional English song done in dub style. Cool! And so it goes on, jumping from genre to genre on each following track making the group impossible to categorise from this point on. But that, of course, only makes this a more original and unusual piece of work. I’ve played this album a lot over the last couple of months, and each time it throws up new delights and I hear things that I didn’t pick up on previously. It’s a record that I can’t foresee getting tired of. But for its vocals, the six-minute ‘Flatlined’ could almost have come off a Neil Young and Crazy Horse album. It’s that good and probably my favourite track at the moment. Note that it almost could come off a Young album; again there is enough of Norlund’s own original vision in the song to prevent the band being mere copyists. That’s the main attraction, really. You hear just a line here, a riff there, which makes you think you have them pinned down, but then in seconds it’s gone and you are left realising that what they are doing is pretty unique. As I wrote in the beginning of this review, my attention span is low when it comes to non-English language songs. It speaks volumes, therefore, that even though I understand very little Danish, the track ‘Ingensomhelst’ (translation: 'Nobody At All)' holds my attention all the way through. At the end of the day though it’s a well-produced pop song immaculately played, which, like all the songs here, has a melody to die for. The language doesn’t seem to matter. On a closing note, listening again to the lovely ballad which is ‘Holiday’ I am reminded for a few fleeting seconds of The Triffids during their ‘Born Sandy Devotional’ period although the song does not actually sound like them. A strange, wonderful record. The only "trouble" with Rhonda Harris is that you probably haven’t listened to them yet.



Track Listing:-
1 Young Girl And Cowboy
2 Big Star
3 Kaewpechok
4 I Heard You Never Told Her
5 Avalanche
6 Fell Out Of Love
7 Flatlines
8 Ingensolhelst
9 Holiday
10 In Love With No One
11 St John



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