Boy is she fat, and getting fatter. I realise this is something we’re not meant to mention when talking about Beth — but it’s kinda the elephant in the room. Literally. And I worry about the lass. These days she makes Mama Cass look like Edie Sedgwick. Of course, we should accept her as she is — a lesbian-identifying, very hefty babe from good ol’ down-home Ar-kin-saw. Her difference, then, is part of the schtick, breaking the mould, etc. — and that’s just fine and (Jim) dandy, providing something palpably ‘different’ actually emanates from the stuff she does. That the proud revelling in difference is not merely a cosmetic exercise designed to shift units. And while perhaps once she could claim this, not any more. You can search high and wide but you won’t find an album as defiantly conventional, as comfortable, as Fake Sugar.
It’s been billed as a return to her southern rawk roots. Nope. The occasional polite guitar riff has not turned Beth into Black Oak Arkansas, still less Drive-By Truckers. Instead we have a pop album that reeks of the 1980s, seamless and smooth. It’s not a bad album by any means — and Ditto has a beautiful and powerful voice. ‘Fire’ is the Black Keys with the edges shaved off. ‘In and Out’ wrenches a decent tune from the embers of ‘Stand By Me’. ‘Oo La La’ is fun and may have Goldfrapp’s lawyers both tapping their feet and, indeed, preparing their exploratory letters. Well produced, competently performed and delightfully sung pop rock, then. She was once a riot grrrl. Fake Sugar, though, is about as edgy and challenging as Heart or Wilson Phillips.
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