Album Review: Kate Tempest- Everybody Down





Kate Tempest


Everybody Down




Everybody Down is available via:

 Everybody Down (Bonus Track Version), Kate Tempest


Marshall Law- 9.8/10.0

The Truth- 9.7

Lonely Daze- 9.7

Chicken- 9.6

The Beigeness- 9.7

Theme from Becky- 9.6

Stink- 9.6

The Heist- 9.7

To the Victor the Spoils- 9.6

Circles- 9.6

A Hammer- 9.7

Happy End- 9.8


RELEASED: 16 May 2014

℗ 2014 Big Dada

GENRES: Hip Hop/Rap Music, Spoken Word, Rap, Rock.


There is tempestuounsess and bleak modern-day tableaux throughout Everybody Down. With a compelling and mesmerizing sense of story, Kate Tempest draws you in (and down to genuflection): providing the listener a beguiling and hypnotic listen. As reclamation unabashedly flirts with danger, our heroine leaves an inextirpable mark- and gets under your skin.


ONCE in a while a musician arrives that leaves you somewhat senseless and speechless...

Since the discontinuation and entropy of The Streets, few current acts have come through that have projected a similarly imperious and potent blend: a relevant and poetically laced set of songs that speak to the young generation- and inspire them to put down their shields, and pick up their pens. In the current climate, there are a few notable lyricists: those whom are able to take the breath away with their skill and intelligence- wordsmiths like Alex Turner and Laura Marling come to mind. Those disparate examples provide ample wit, wisdom and love-gone-down-the-crapper insight: plenty for the young and restless to relate to- it is a solemn and sparse hegemony that provides inspiration, for sure. Artists such as Kate Tempest come along so rarely, that it is difficult to not become twitterpated and excited. When Mike Skinner first launched The Streets, tongues excitedly wagged: sensing something fresh, urgent and wonderful, many young listeners turned their attentions to his spellbinding motifs; the psychotropic and cinematic novellas that were poured forth- a new street-dwelling hero was born. Kate Tempest is no mere 'female equivalent' (we have all had to suffer through twee and irritating examples such as Lady Sovereign). My featured artist is a phenomenal talent that has won paen and patronage from the media and music-loving public- all spellbound by her phenomenal stream-of-consciousness genius and vivid mandates:

"Kate Tempest grew up in South-East London, where she still lives. She started out as a rapper, toured the spoken word circuit for a number of years, and now works as a poet and playwright too. Her work includes 'Balance', her first album with her band Sound of Rum, 'Everything Speaks in its Own Way', her first collection of poems, published on her own imprint Zingaro, which comes with a CD and DVD of live performance; 'GlassHouse', a forum theatre play for Cardboard Citizens; and the plays 'WASTED' (Published by Methuen Drama) and 'Hopelessly Devoted' for new writing theatre company Paines Plough. Her epic poem Brand New Ancients won both the Ted Hughes Prize for innovation in poetry and a Herald Angel Award. It is published by Picador and is touring nationwide until April 2014. After a sell out show at St Anne's Warehouse, Brooklyn, Brand New Ancients received a rave review in the New York Times and came to international attention. She continues to work with music, and featured on the track Our Town, a collaboration with producer duo letthemusicplay (Greco-Roman.) She also featured on the track Hot Night Cold Spaceship (Speedy Wunderground) and has collaborated with Sinead O’Connor, Damien Dempsey and Bastille. Her debut solo album comes out on Big Dada in 2014, which she made with acclaimed music producer Dan Carey. She has performed at Glastonbury and all major UK festivals, as well as performing internationally. She sold out the Old Vic Theatre in London for the launch of Everything Speaks… and has appeared on BBC TV and radio many times performing her poems. She has been commissioned to write for The Royal Shakespeare Company, Amnesty International, Barnado’s and Channel 4 Television. Her second poetry collection will be publisher by Picador in Autumn 2014 and her debut novel The Bricks that Built the Houses will be published by Bloomsbury in 2015."

Kate Tempest herself is influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Bjork and Dali- how many other acts list these three artists alongside one another? To be fair, if you are a fan of The Streets and their ilk:  you will find a lot to appreciate and love. Tempest's music will draw in and seduce those that adore words and their potentiality: followers of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell will uncover pleasing familiarities. Although a large proportion of Everybody Down's tracks are Rap/Hip Hop-based, that is not to say that it the music is exclusionary: fans of Rock and Folk will feel comfort and logic within the music. The startling and evocative poetry speaks to- and can be extrapolated by- all; the stark and corsucating imagery are filmic and cinematic: bleak and depressive moments do not divide or alienate- there is redemptiveness and sympathy to be found. If you are tired of the risk-free and unambitious movements of many current acts, then investigate Kate Tempest: a pertinent remedy to musical malaise- and a talent that deserves an accomplished and augmentative fan base.

Everybody Down's earliest projectiles hit hard and fast: Kate Tempest makes sure her voice is announced with scant fanfare. Little time is wasted as Marshall Law introduces the album's protagonists: Becky is first up. Setting the scene, we are introduced to an imperialistic and dank dive: one where disreputable loudmouths and cretinous extras raise their voices "to prove they exist." In an inhospitable bar (I imagine somewhere around Chelsea or Fulham) everyone has a double-barreled surname; "decadant fabrics" and cacophonous white noise set the scene: where flavour-of-the-month bands rub shoulders with industry hob-nobbers- the ensconced hoi polloi are a veritable who's who of the who-gives-a-crap. The exhaustion and extinction of dignity are scored by a tribal beat: one that is relentless and animalistic- backing Kate Tempest perfectly. Visions and conversations are breathlessly projected: pretentious fops and posing, postulating pop stars lift drinks with Marshall Law- an aureolin-clad artist being given a strict dressing-down. Becky meets Harry, as the two find a necessary escape and relief: the intrigue is in its embryonic stages. With visions of a better life: class bars that serve real music; sans chichi bands giving "blow jobs to mic. stands." Becky's visions of dignified adulthood are positively Shakespearian: you can feel the modern-day Romeo and Juliet parable run through the opening number. Switching voices between first and second-person is an effective modulation: the breathless syncopation keeps the energy level at an uncomfortable high- making the narrative more urgent and realistic. As class boundaries, lascivious businessmen and financial wastefulness are anglicised and ostracised: we reach the end of a pendulous impasse- and furiously paced- opening chapter. A Dub-Step-style beat heralds in The Truth. Kate Tempest looks at things we take for granted: love and relationships are examined; lovers are found, canonised and casually tossed aside- "determined to waste what you've found." Philosophy and predeterminism are examined: the nature of truth and the reality of life is put under the microscope- and our author encourages us to examine our own lives and put things into perspective. Cardinal numbers are skillfully deployed as metaphors for characters: allowing Tempest to cross-pollinate and overlap; employ homonyms to dazzling effect- and keep the album's momentum high. Hesitatators and neigh-sayers are concisely denounced within The Truth- Lonely Daze does not allow us a moment for reflection and temporization. A woozy and tribalistic composition sees Tempest continuing a pugnacious rite-of-passage: the vocal is less angered; there is warmth and understanding to be found. Becky is sleep-deprived and somnambulistic: agog in an aloof city she "don't wanna see her heart get ruined." Redemptiveness and moratorium is offered, as Tempest roots for the heroine: a new lease of life starts to take effect. Shy glances are exchanged (between Becky and the hero); loose change is fumbled and disinterest masquerades as nervousness: in a small cafe it seems that Becky's rut may soon be over. Lust-filled eyes are not secularised: it seems that Becky felt a spark, too- the hero remorseful at the fact he did not take a leap. A nocturnal incarnation provides a second bite of the cherry: synthetic laughter is muted by tremulous desire- in the end coyness and coquettishness leave a question mark in the air. After a charming vocal performance, hypnotic composition and a fascinating will-they-wont-they conjecture: Chicken adds further progression to the story arc. Foreshadowing potential heartache, a mordent sonic echo underpins the tale: one where Harry examines his lot. Sifting through the emotional rubble of his childhood home, Harry casts his mind back. Picturing his dad and his "silent ways" (no-thrills and all), regret and recrimination are under the spotlight. Harry regrets his emotional whorishness: having been too open with Becky, his mind is a turbulent vortex- insidious flashbacks race through his mind. His mum and new suitor (the present day tableaux) juxtapose with the images of the night just gone: Harry's body is dormant, yet his mind tries to make sense of his family predicament- as well as search for answers in relation to his romantic conundrum. Tempest beautifully shifts between the two realms: with economic regard she manages to tell so much story over the course of three minutes. After a dizzying quarter of tracks, (the magnificently named) The Beigeness arrives. A funky and groovy intro. provides recourse and (brief) suppression: which gives way to a gleefully catchy vocal performance. Looking at a fake and desperate emotional underclass, Tempest is more buoyant and pragmatic: there is an emphasis on moving forwards in life. Looking at an inner spirit which "comes out on the coldest days", there are double-edged swords and disingenuous emotions on display- as much repression as expression. The antithesis of a humdrum middle-aged loser, Tempest is rebelling against beige conformity: if you have dreams and ideals for a better life, then do not keep it all in- otherwise plain-sailing will swallow you. Theme from Becky puts the album's heroine in full focus. Evolved from a bitter and optionless past life, Becky is now awash in a more tranquil life: a masseur by trade, her calling has been located adoring of the silence and clientele conversation- it seems that things are on the up. Boardrooms and hollow suits are once more thematically reignited: as synonyms for emptiness and an aimless life, Becky cannot believe the life they lead- tactile to touch and running on fumes, they are the antithesis of the dream she dreams. Keen to act as a portal to a louche and sensual life, Becky is no moral compass: she has rent to pay and provides an open mind to businessmen who are slaves to a robotic existence. An inspirational call-to-arms-cum-f***-you mantra, the track imparts wisdom and escape- why spent life in a faceless office when you could be living a better life ("Each person's rhythm is unique"). By the final moments, disquisition, displacement and louche disquiet creep in: her boardroom-dwelling sweetheart is causing her to reassess her ambitions and question herself. With spiritual revocation and loveless kisses, the heroine is slipping down a rabbit hole- enmeshed in a life she has always loathed. Given the anxieties and cliffhangers that Theme from Becky left: Stink ties up loose ends with expiditiousness. A post-coital afterglow begins the track; breathless and sweat-bedewed, the song's participants are helicaly entwined. Just as we think contenment will reign, the flip-side is examined: the fighting and tit-for-tat begins. With the venom being spat all over the walls, Becky and her sweetheart are walking on eggshells. After the emotional ballistics have been fired, the two parties appear segregated: Becky goes to work to escape; Pete stares at the world outside- trying to keep it all in. Becky has to support herself and work herself into the ground (to make it through her studies): Pete is jobless and judgemental: enveloped in a web of jealousy and mistrust, openness and conversation devolves into quarrels- pulling the lovers further apart. Away from the love-on-the-rocks tribulations, The Heist sees Harry back in the frame. In a shady and bustling club, recidivism and low hanging fruit intersect- Harry is taken to the back room, as something epic is being planned. The introduction of a shark tank acts as a perfect prop: the cloak-and-dagger machinations take place, as a baby shark circles the tank- all manner of images and possibilities come to mind. The beat and mood become heavier and more frantic: the song's gradation sees cocaine pushers bartering and prophesying false ideals- violent threats are traded and exchanged. Harry is angst-ridden and nervous, as coke is snorted: Harry stashes the goods in his coat pocket and reluctantly gets sucked into a dark criminality. To the Victor the Spoils looks at an ersatz father-daughter bond: Becky finishes her shift at a local restaurant as her uncle Ron looks on. As Ron pours his woes and troubles out, the duo are distracted. Tempest lets it be known that "Nothing don't heal 'til it hurts"; those who don't toil or break their backs with honest labour will never be rewarded- Becky is the antithesis to the work-shy generation. A character called 'Uncle Ragz' enters the fray: a dead-eyed hard man, he is angry after being swindled- having been duped and dishonoured during a drug deal, vengeance is on his mind. Harry is mentioned (he is being hunted down as the culprit): tying the story threads together, your mind is trained towards Harry's fate- as well as Becky's plight. Ron dreams of disenfranchisement and potential wealth: picturing himself as a heavy, he sees a way out of the 9-5 rut- and it seems that Harry's life is in distinct danger. A swirling and knife-edge electronic beat introduces the listener to Circles. Tempest's circles are not concentric or coaxial: they are ragged and zigzagging "Like a dog on a lead going mental." A heart full of love changes to cold hands: love- it is decided- rots the soul and is a worthless currency. Everything is cyclical and ever-moving: problems that were buried come home to roost; positivity turns to scornful negativity- the reverse is also true. The song deals with how events in life repeat themselves: our heroine is caught in a spiral of ever-changing fortunes and outcomes- on balance, the scales are tipping in her favour and leading to avarice rather than poverty. A Hammer begins life as a ghostly and foreboding missive. With a figure who has the complexion of "chewed-up bar snacks"; eyes, an evocation of potholes: a grizzly and macabre shadow lingers over the song. Tempest splits subjects into two groups: (the tooth-and-)nails and hammers(of the gods)- if you are a hammer all you see is nails; nails are there to be hammered. Pete is back in the consciousness; unwilling to decamp and demure, he is pissed off and aghast- resentful of Becky's job, he knows the life of their relationship is in its terminal stage. Jealous hangs around Pete's neck: the proverbial albatross, it is a carcass whose decomposing scent is intoxicating his sense of judgement. He knows that (Becky) works "to pay the bills and exist"- the resentment and pettiness he has displayed have smacked him in the face. Pete is hammer: swinging blithely (at Becky the nail) his nonchalant disregard and small-minded anger has turned back on him- as the final moments eek away, perhaps some much-needed clarity and maturity is afoot? The swan song arrives in the form of a 433-second epic: Happy End. Many (without hearing the song) may see this as an ironic red herring: our author putting the final nail into the coffin. Set against Harry's birthday, the album's participants meet and mingle: Harry and Ron are introduced and all the threads and storylines are dovetailed at this venue- a final showdown as it were. Events are going okay at first: the mood is ebullient (when compared with previous numbers) and looks to offer positivity: things soon go sour. Pete is offered a punch in the face: flashback to the Hotel Hacienda, Becky's beau has a colourful and eventful past. The dossier open, our capricious characters go about their business: Ron washes his hands (in the toilet); Harry is jonesing for a gramme of gutter glitter- having virtually inhaled the last batch, he is pumped and wired. In this London House of the Blues, the neon lights shine; the rain pours down: inside its moodily lit recesses, our players combust and fight- and tempers flare. Rambuctiousness and simmering tension turns to bloodshed: as a melee erupts. The upshot of it all is: Becky, Leon and Harry head out- and it appears that Becky and Harry get the happy ending they crave. The final beats drop and smoulder, and you are left to....breathe.

Dislocated lovers, double agents, prima donnas, patrician facade and drug lords feature high on the playbill. Poseusrs and knob-joint 'avant-garde' bands break bread with rich-by-circumstance business suits; tokenism and effrontery are as emblematic as razor blade flirtation- there is a cornucopia and a Smörgåsbord of personalities throughout Everybody Down. Kate Tempest presents a myriad of styles of genres across the L.P. U.S. Blues guitars and U.K. Dub-Step grime mingle alongside staccato electronics and rapid-fire Rap. Each new location brings with it an apropos wardrobe. The opening salvo's East London nightclub possesses extubated  and gasping synthesisers and high heels beats: Marshall Law's authenticity and evocativeness perfectly kick-start the album. Events play out like a Shakespearian tragedy: the words are compellingly (borderline-genius), yet it can be hard to find too many chinks of light. It is worth digesting the album is several sittings: investigate 3-4 tracks at a time; relax; come back and continue- and once you are inoculated and comfortable with the album, treat it to repeated adoration. Tempest's scintillating firepower and conviction means every song comes across as urgent, essential and engrossing- I was a mass of goosebumps and ill-formed goo by the close of Happy End. Each storyline and tableu vivant represents different aspects of the 'lost generation': this modern-day life, where pecuniary woe and economic inequality are rife- the hard-working get poorer and the least-deserving get fatter. There is no finger-wagging at the government: Tempest detaches herself from politicizing and protest- preferring to grip you with her flair for story and context. Each player comes across as real and relatable: you hope that Becky makes it out of her miasma and entrapment- the final lyrics put a wry smile on your lips. Like an epic Indie movie, there is a lot of grit and depression to sit through: Everybody Down has enough redemptiveness, witticism and cheeky banter to ensure that palliative care is provided. The churlish and boorish get their comeuppance; the hard-fighting and struggling find absolution and rectification: the album not only perfectly represents 2014 Britain, but also provides a phenomenal storybook- one that implores you to investigate again and again. Overall, I was gripped by the noir tones and fascinating insights: Tempest not only shows herself to be one of the most all-encompassing and itinerant lyricists of our time, but proves herself as an incredible composer- a cross-splicing and mutating chameleon that effortless moves from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. If you have not heard Everybody Down: ensure that you do so as soon as possible.

With a debut novel on the horizon as well as (I'm sure) more music: the future is going to be bright and busy for Kate Tempest- further cementing her reputation as one of the U.K.'s most reputable and worthy talents. Music is a meritocratic system: talent and worthiness gain you reward; the most striking are always likely to succeed- Tempest is amongst the very best out there. When reviewing Gypsyfingers' (a London-based duo consisting paramours Luke Oldfield and Victoria Coghlan) debut album Circus Life, I was struck by Coghlan's staccato, tumbling vocalisations- she is able to rap with syncopation and furious speed. The lyrics (on the appropriate tracks) were filled with city life observations; broken love and life: anxious pleas and proclamations were offered up- and left me hugely impressed. I see Coghlan as a tandem artist: someone capable of matching Tempest's range and potency- it will be interesting to see if future Gypsyfingers releases incorporate more Rap and Hip Hop elements. A multitude of reviews have expounded the virtues of Everybody Down: the album has been gaining enormous kudos- pundits eager to distill the majesty and wonder of South East London's finest. Kate Tempest is one of the most relevant and finest songwriters anywhere in the world; possessed of an intellect and mobility few of her peers posses, the rest of this year is sure to see our heroine's stock rise: it seems that with every move she makes her confidence and ambition grows. Being a recent convert and fan, I am making up for lost time: investigating the back catalogue and annals of Tempest's past- trying to get inside the mind of the startling songwriter. I am not sure what the next couple of years will hold for Kate Tempest; it is clear that her music (amongst the clandestine) will not remain entre nous: cloistered ears and minds are starting to turn themselves onto her stunning songcraft. Having fully examined (and replayed) Everybody Down, I am determined to see Kate Tempest in the live arena- it will be exhilarating to see her music come to life in the flesh. Whilst some have ambivalently stated that (the album's) overall themes and storylines are too bleak to gain mass appeal, I take issue: some of the greatest songwriters to have walked the planet present much duskier themes- and are rightfully regarded as legends. If you drill down to the bedrock and examine the songs (the meanings, nuances and innermost visions), then you will find necessary enlightenment and persuasion. Since the '90s, there have been few acts and genres of music that have dared to be bold and enterprising: Kate Tempest is an artist capable of kick-starting a resurgence and uprising. Music needs more artists like her: those able to compel as well as inspire. I shall conclude with a quote from Shakespeare (taken from Hamlet): "...we know what we are, but know not what we may be." Kate Tempest is a musician wholly confident in her own skin; yet one who has a lot of talking left to do. Everybody Down is the (brilliant and bold) thesis of the here and now- it will be fascinating to witness...

WHERE she is headed.

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