'A Storm Of A Woman' - JESSICA BRETT

Published on 11 March 2024 at 12:06

By Paul Laird

Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"


Sometimes people who write about music don’t actually write about music. Sometimes they aren’t actually doing any real writing. 

They are, instead, regurgitating. 


A press release drops in their inbox and they simply copy and paste the content of that into their  “review”. 




The artist receives the benefit of publicity - a download here, a stream there, a ticket or two more  on the door of their next live show. 

Everyone’s a winner. 


When I write about music I am often simply using the music as an excuse to write about myself. 


There have been occasions (too many of them) where my writing has made people very cross.  My opinions about the music they love has drawn a furious response from them. Vague  comments, broad generalisations, a cutting barb, have been taken very personally and I have  been blocked on social media, sent ill lettered emails hinting at grand councils of Elders who have  deemed me to be a heretical presence within “their” community. Tedious. 


But I can’t write about music without writing honestly. 


Writing honestly sometimes involves writing inconsistently - of taking positions, holding views that seem to be, and indeed are, in direct conflict with positions and views you held hours or  minutes earlier. 


The alternative to that is to write without any real heart. 


Music matters too much for me to treat it as anything other than an intimate part of my life. 


Even when I have written in scathing tones about music/musicians that have infuriated and  enraged me, I am writing from the heart. 


In recent times I have stopped writing about the sort of music that first drew eyes to my writing -  that isn’t because I don’t still love that sort of music or those bands, it is simply that a small  number of the people who also like that sort of music make me feel physically ill. The thought of  having something in common with some of those people is just too awful to contemplate. Best to  just not write about it. 


Since 2021 I have mainly written about electronic sounds. That is because I took out a  subscription to Electronic Sounds magazine - a conscious decision I took in order to expose  myself to music that wasn’t just new to me, but that was new. I wanted to cleanse my cultural  palate of some of the toxicity that had started to taint so many aspects of my life.  


All of this brings us to “A Storm of a Woman” from Jess Brett. 

If Brett had released this in 2020 I wouldn’t have known. 

I was stuck in a cultural cul-de-sac. 

New music meant only new music that sounded just like old music from artists I already knew  about. 

What was the fucking point?

“A Storm of a Woman” is gloriously retro and violently current. 


There are moments when the ghost of Vince Clarke’s work with Alison Moyet under the name of  Yazoo appears in the room. Brett’s voice, and lyrics, hint at the same raw emotion, and search for  purity, that marked Moyet out as one of the most important female voices of the eighties.  Musically the same spirit of joyful simplicity that drove the string of hits that Clarke was  responsible for with Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Assembly, and Erasure is here. 


But then gears shift and something very different arrives. 


A song like “Off My Drugs” has the same emotional intensity as Ginsberg, the voice no longer  something melodic and uplifting, but instead a raw and brutal tool for allowing you to feel the pain  and trauma that has inspired the song. Her voice soars and almost cracks as she lays herself  bare.  


Despite the absence of those noisy guitars that so please so many, the things I am most reminded  of as I listen are the likes of PJ Harvey and Patti Smith - artists who place truth above all else.  Despite the theatrical nature of “A Storm of a Woman” it is obvious that Brett is similarly  concerned with finding truth, of saying something that matters, and of bringing some comfort to  the person listening who may need it. 


I wish that we lived in a world where an album like this would reach the people who need it, but  the shadow of certain musical forms looms so large over our culture that it is almost impossible  for new music to find even a tiny shard of light that would expose them to others.  


It isn’t easy to step out of the cul-de-sac, to force yourself to listen to, to read, to watch, to taste,  things that are unfamiliar. People don’t like admitting that they have changed their mind, that the  thing they have droned on and on about forever as being the best thing ever isn’t actually all that  great. Accepting that you have changed…or that you have been wrong…or forcing yourself to admit even the possibility of something new being better, or just as good, as the thing you have  hitched your wagon to is challenging. I know…I’ve done it. But the reward for that is finding  someone like Jess Brett.


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