Bella McKendree – Waiting EP (Trellis Records)

Bella McKendree – Waiting EP (Trellis Records)

As a teenager in the 1990s there seemed to me to be suddenly so many offshoots and sub-genres of music it was like growing up in one of those sweetshops where everything was nicely ordered in plastic tubs on the shelves, as journalists scrambled to cleverly label the next big thing. Grunge gave way to nu-metal and emo, the Madchester and shoegaze scenes spewed forth Britpop and (the incredibly named) New Wave Of New Wave, while hip-hop and rave combined in techno, jungle and trip-hop. As trip-hop revolutionised what it was possible to do with a home studio for a while it seemed Tricky, Portishead et al were giving us something genuinely innovative and relevant. Then Massive Attack’s sublime Blue Lines changed everything setting a new high-water mark for experimental British music. But like the imagined heat death of the universe after this initial period of great invention it seemed we’d reached a point where musical entropy quickly diminished into a uniform soup of genre equilibrium.

Oddly but interestingly, the last great leap forward stylistically, dubstep, has also seemingly cooled into a version of trip-hop identical to that of the late 1990s as if evolving independently twice like some kind of perfect (but underwhelming) evolutionary end game, all roads lead to trip-hop. Bands like The XX and London Grammar now dilute the airwaves like the last remnants of the stars and galaxies in our universe metaphor.

So, if the world needs another singer/songwriter “influenced by the likes of London Grammar [and] The XX” why shouldn’t it be Bella McKendree. The Morcheeba-by-numbers of ‘Don’t You Wanna Be Loved’ is hardly reinventing the wheel. The predictable slowed down broken-glass beats, double layered vocals and scratchy (as if sampled) organ couldn’t be more derivative. So far, so unflinchingly bland and inoffensive. Similarly, ‘Grieve’ is a lovely country ballad spoiled only by being played at 90 bpm with an overblown piano loop when a pedal steel would have been sufficiently heartfelt and allowed the incredible melody in the chorus to shine. Less is sometimes more.

These aren’t bad songs, far from it, but by consciously shying away from the traditional singer/songwriter blueprint when you are actually a really good singer/songwriter is detrimental to the cause. However, the title track is a bit more like it, simple and mournful in a Lana Del Rey sort of way and the sentimental “I start to wonder if you’re as good a lover as a friend” in the pre-chorus is both relatable and emotive as the song slowly builds towards moments of nigh-on perfect modern power-pop. If you listen carefully there is also some lovely slide guitar in the background, more intuitive with the singer’s natural tone and delivery, but again it’s virtually hidden in the production.

However, like an occasional raisin in a world of curry sauce, Waiting’s appeal is in its brief glimpses of a possible future that all debut releases should contain but more often than not do not, and on closer ‘Baby Lets Fall’ Bella McKendree gets tantalisingly close to the contemporary Kate Bush styling she aspires to.

Waiting is released on August 18th through Trellis Records.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.