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Dot Allison - Room 7½

  by Lisa Torem

published: 10 / 9 / 2009

Dot Allison - Room 7½
Label: Arthoused
Format: CD


Emotive and ambitious, if somewhat over melancholic latest solo album from Scottish singer-songwriter Dot Allison, which includes duets with Peter Doherty and Paul Weller

The shadows surrounding singer-songwriter and producer Dot Allison’s silhouette on her CD cover tip you off to the surreal contents. Allison, in 2002, co-produced 'We Are Science' with Keith Tenneswood and Mercury Rev compadre Dave Fridman. This Scottish chanteuse who bears fragile pipes has been engaged in a variety of collaborations since then such as 'I Killed the Monster' in 2002 and 'Ministry of Sound Chilled' in 2009. Allison is joined by British singer-songwriter Paul Weller of punk band fame with the Jam until 1982 and the Style Council until 1989. On 'Room 7½' Allison employs a vast wealth of emotion. In 'Cry' she sings, “You are frozen you are fire. An endless ocean of dangerous desire. And we could melt an avalanche inside. And we could glow tonight like a fallen star.” Hopefulness resides initially in her earnest delivery, but it soon diffuses in a downward plunge ultimately reaching this dark conclusion: “Like the dark night that draws you near, like the sunlight dries my tear, And I am fallen, fallen like the rain, that floods a desert in your heart again. “ “Just cry, I know the reason why, yeah you cry this is the last goodbye.” Her breathless voice wavers above melancholy chord progressions. 'Paved with a Little Pain' investigates a series of hypotheticals, “if I was a preacher, I would kneel and say a prayer, if I was a gambler I would save myself for you...” Oddly enough, what would traditionally be thought of as a folk lyric, gets heaped up high in a country skillet. Nevertheless, Allison expresses deep love for the protagonist in this ballad, though she considers the relationship a mixed blessing and a ticket to fatalistic emptiness. “I’ve gotta go because I love you, the road we took was just in vain, But can’t you feel it getting colder, our love came with a little pain.” 'I Wanna Break Your Heart', co-written by Peter Doherty contains a choppy acoustic progression which accompanies Allison’s thinly-veiled utterances. A muted mish-mash of vocals ensue between Allison and Doherty. “The pain I brought to you it was so easy to do, and traceless like sand I slid through your hands. I know you have suffered cried tears in my name. Now you’ll never recover from my delight in your shame,” Allison sings. And Doherty responds, “I wanna be your man, I wanna break your heart, I wanna hold your hand, I wanna break your heart.” 'Buzzing round the Honey Pots' brandishes the essential line, “Like a busy little worker bee.” This song is a raw undulating ballad dressed up in sheaths of synth. But, Allison’s dreamy rendition masquerades the deeper message. “Your love it slayed me, brought me to my knees. But you’ve been pollinating other flowers, pretty little orchards right beneath my feet.” The self-titled 'Room 7½' has an alluring pop sound with Venture-style electric guitar and slurs of zither which bring to mind a delirious prom queen on crack. The off-kilter key changes enhance the whimsical mood. But again, the surface energy serves as a skim hiding cynical sub-text such as,. “Tell me that you love me, I’ll be forgetting I’m just a lowly whore. Feed my foolish dream, I could be a wife. That I could tempt you away from your other life.” 'Fall to Me' boasts somnambulistic piano chords which stratify Allison’s forlorn lyrics centering on phrases such as, “Words fall from my lips like letters, doves once caged now fly unfettered, thought our hearts would remain unscathed, we’re still here but something’s changed.” The beautiful imagery begins with passion, then resolves in remorse. Celestial sounds glimmer in the background –there’s a close your eyes and drift away sensibility emanating throughout 'Love’s Got Me Crazy'. This male-female duet with Weller – seemingly an attempt to mainstream – is almost maddening after the preceding ethereal ballast. Nevertheless, it’s a well-constructed ditty offering a ray of hope, “Black clouds I can’t see them, darkness has no home tonight, all that is said that is not a given, we’re going to try, we’re going to try.” 'Montague Terrace (In Blue)', a cover of a Scott Walker song, has definitive moments of cohesion and thought. However, the constantly shifting key changes detract from the depth, although some stand-alone lines like, “Your eyes ignite like coal-blue fire, the scent of secrets everywhere, a fist filled with illusions clutches all our cares” invite careful thought. A curious choice was 'Jonny Villain'. Despite full-strength gorgeous guitar, Allison’s evocative, but wispy voice can’t fulfill the role of gun-slinger. The misguided, ram-rod blues-harp meanders further adrift. 'While She Sleeps' is a detailed, decoupage layering image after luscious image against Cirrus cloud synth and a fierce melodic liet motit which drape Allison’s sheer sound. “The twilight of our love tiptoes into our room. It twists and weaves around us like vines around the moon. He reaches for her through the dark and just like sleep’s willing prisoner swindled by a dream,” she intones. The closer, 'Portrait of the Sun', has a thumping drone-like bass which interferes with Allison’s remaining moments. Yet she manages to summarize, “I know it’s hard to say, but it makes sense today, I love you anyway, though we are close yet so estranged.” “Room 7½” is an ambitious endeavour with some lovely levitating melodies and strong imagery. It evokes the aftermath of a bittersweet affair effectively, although a straight-forward love-song wouldn’t have tipped the scales. Shoring up the vision could make this room more palpable and cozy for two

Track Listing:-
1 Cry
2 Paved With A Little Pain
3 I Wanna Break Your Heart
4 Buzzing Round The Honey Pots
5 Room Seven And A Half
6 Fall To Me
7 Love's Got Me Crazy
8 Montague Terrace (In Blue)
9 Jonny Villain
10 While She Sleeps
11 Portrait Of The Sun

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