Historically spoken word albums can be hit and miss. However in recent years this has changed and they have become vibrant, exciting and extremely playable. Since the rise of artists like Sage Francis, Polarbear and Scroobius Pip spoken word nights have taken on the vibe of rock gigs. People get excited, enthused and give the performers a hero’s exit after their set. One of this new batch of poets is Hollie McNish.
This week sees the release of her new album Versus (or should that be Verses?). What’s more it’s only a double. The first disc is straight up poetry. This is what McNish does best. Her poems don’t mess around they get straight to the point, and once she’s made her point she hammers it home with facts, pathos and humour.
Stand out tracks include Mathematics is about immigration. Cherry Pie is a beautifully harrowing lament about her Grand Father being sick because during the war he (and his comrades) were stranded on a beach and all they had to eat was candied cherries. Touch is about how you don’t need pornography if you are in a relationship and you should be able to turn each other on. Cupcakes and Scones is about how weird the concept of School Discos are, and how McNish doesn’t want dress like a child anymore. She’s a woman and wants to be treated as such. As you can see these are big topics that no one else seems to be talking about. This is McNish’s genius and power. At times the album places like a best of, as the quality of the songs are so strong.
Disc two contains the same tracks as the first, but being backed by music. If you’d seen McNish live recently you would have noticed that she was adding musical elements to her sets. Musically it’s pretty grimy and dirty. The juxtaposition between McNish’s lyrics and the music is perfect. Although her voice is soft and soothing but the subject matter is anything but. This is great stuff!
If you are a hip-hop junkie or a poetry head this album is for you. If you aren’t then you need to hear this album! There is a major shift going on at the moment and spoken word is getting bigger and bigger. So do yourself a favour and get down to Hollie’s nearest show.