With an emotional fervor and her trademark poignancy, Nadine Shah rattles society’s foundations on her provocative fourth album, ‘Kitchen Sink’.
Nadine Shah has never shied away from tackling society’s most challenging questions and issues. Her debut album, Love Your Dum and Mad, focused on mental illness, and more specifically the tragic deaths of two close friends who took their own lives. 2015’s Fast Food followed shortly thereafter, and Shah looked inwards at her own mental health while also analyzing society’s power imbalances. In 2017, the London native achieved new heights as she sharpened her focus on the Mercury Prize-nominated, politically charged Holiday Destination. Addressing racism in the White House, the detention of immigrants, and institutionalized tyranny, Shah’s third album was an awakening.
Now in her mid-30s and with her musical career entering its second decade, Shah shows no signs of slowing down. Instead, she’s further honed her gaze and, thus, her craft on the provocative Kitchen Sink. Like her previous albums, Kitchen Sink is a socially- and politically-charged record. This time, however, the LP largely revolves around Shah’s own experiences in being an “ageing” woman in the 21st Century and how gender dynamics largely remain the same despite the #MeToo movement’s efforts.
With boisterous horns blaring in the background, the album kicks off with the witty “Club Cougar”. With a steely eye roll, Shah trashes the label, “cougar”, and in turn points the finger at the desperate men who devour all women with their eyes.
“Call me pretty, make your maneuver
One year younger, call me a cougar
All dressed up, think I did it for ya
Make eye contact, think I adore ya
It’s a pity, it’s your maneuver
Your conversation makes me abhor you”
The sultry playfulness of “Dillydally” gives the impression of a dance between two people. This tango, though, is just another bloke looking to score and, thus, “checking off lists” while “passing the time”. For some, though, women are incubators to continue one’s lineage and family name, which is highlighted on the boisterous and superb “Trad”. “Bake my eggs / Bathe my eggs / Play nice and do as you are told”, Shah beckons to herself as a reminder of what it means to be a good wife. And in some instances, parental appeasement drives one’s decision, as confessed by the heroine on the jittery yet smokey “Ukrainian Wine”.
The power dynamics in a relationship are brilliantly examined on the sleek “Buckfast”. With a Fiona Apple-esque assertiveness, Shah laments, “I can’t wait till you are able to hold a job down / See, I’m mentally unstable to reverse it round”. The title track dives deeper in to examining why people easily succumb to traditional gender roles. On this occasion, Shah turns narrator and counselor, as she encourages women to:
“Forget about the curtain-twitchers
Gossiping boring bunch of bitches”.
Then something unexpected happens. With PJ Harvey-like bluster, “Walk” is an anthem of liberation or at least the idea that it’s possible. It is breaking the chains of expectations and societal norms and that women, too, have free will. “I don’t want your love / I have had enough / I just want to walk”, Shah calmly proclaims. She doesn’t need to shout to be heard because her words and actions do all the talking. This has been the case for nearly a decade, as Shah has once again rattled our foundations. And she’s done it with emotional fervor and her trademark poignancy.
Kitchen Sink is out on Infectious Music. Stream or purchase it at these links.
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