Though I have yet to listen to every one of her albums, this strikes me as her most ambitious album, at least to date. Recording a side-long suite of songs is borderline prog rock (and would actually be, I guess, if the music was a little more connected).
I’m not sure this is her best set of songs. I get that one half is her most ambitious attempt at storytelling yet, but I think she’s got sets of songs which are superior to this, at least in totality. One thing that might be influencing me is the sequencing – by creating a suite out of some of the material, she’s put much of the catchiest material on the first side, leaving much of the weirder stuff for the second side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I may come to like it in time. But, when you first encounter the record, it makes it sound like the songs are perhaps not quite up to snuff.
The arrangements, though, are, as always, up to snuff. As is her want she combines contemporary instrumentation (including a Fairlight and a drum machine) with with traditional instruments. And, as usual, she does it in ways that few others would think to. The effect is that this record does not date anywhere nearly as records by her contemporaries, such as Peter Gabriel’s.
But it’s certainly more ’80s sounding than some of her records, and that’s not something I love. It also sounds a little thin to me, at times.
Many people consider this her best album. And I must say I’m really not there yet. I like it but I think The Dreaming is a lot better. Maybe I need to listen to all of them in a row. I certainly need to listen to this one a few more times, given the ambition of side 2. That ambition is definitely admirable and I think it works much of the time. But I prefer other records of hers so far.