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Mo KenneyMo Kenney
Album: The Details
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 14

That difficult third album, a cliché in rock and roll circles. Your debut has turned heads, your second, your masterpiece, mentored by a music industry legend, has been well reviewed and is widely tipped to propel you into the upper echelons on the market. You've made it! All those hours of isolation have paid off, the pain of the sacrifices of friends and family and of a normal life fade, and you see contemporaries living their lives of comfortable, crushing mundanity

The obvious choice is to offer more of the same, to repeat the formula. It worked last time, so if it ain't broke....

But instead, her personal life hit a wall, and the safe path became irrelevant.

From the opening, the lo-fi 'Cat's Not a Cake' it's evident that Kenney has wholly reinvented herself; then the punk-pop guitar chords of 'On the Roof' crash into the mix, a powerful and direct rocker. She and her band sound like something on a CBGB's bill circa 1978. The pace is breathless, many tracks no more than a minute long and running into each other, or simply ending in dead air, as Kenney details her journey to her own personal hell and back.

This is not a comfortable album. Her writing and arranging is economical, songs do what they need to do and then stop. Musically brutal and simplistic, occasionally dissonant, it has echoes of the subverted pop sensibility of Lou Reed. 'I can tell that she thinks I am strange, maybe I am'. Some of the tracks are no more than sketches, the gentle ode to depression, the wistful 'Counting the Shelves in the Kitchen'. In her words 'Everything is coming undone, I threw my life out the window'. The bitterness of failed relationships and searing psychedelic guitar in the rocker 'If you're not dead, then get out of my bed,'

This record is not for everyone; Kenney may not, should not, care. She has taken a huge artistic risk. This type of honestly can come across as morbidly self- obsessed, but what sets Kenney apart is the quality of the writing, the classic pop sensibility of riffs, melodies and choruses. And her raw, bleeding, honesty.

In the terrifying and desolate 'Punchy', Kenney muses on a disastrous night in the bar and a lifestyle that leads her to the emergency room. The album closes the sparse and hypnotic 'Feeling Good'. She invites us to believe that she's happy, for the first time in a long time. Sung in a flat and unconvincing monotone. Denial or resolution? And then it just meanders into an instrumental, and stops with the noise of something falling. One of the great dramatic endings of a record.

Art as therapy, a cathartic cry. A weird, multi-faceted collection of pop hooks and rockers, of beauty and desperation, of desolation and isolation.

Laura Thomas