I’m not a fan of reality music competitions. Never have been. Kelly Clarkson aside, I’ve paid the winners little attention, mainly because with the exception of the original winning chanteuse, their offerings feel like the equivalent of fast food: quickly slapped together and designed to sound like everything else on Top 40 radio.
To each their own, but I suppose I’m more of a foodie when it comes to my musical appetite.
But had I been watching The Voice during season 5, I would have been rooting for Kat Robichaud. Packing pipes with a raspy grit that evokes a “seen it all” wisdom, Robichaud stood out in a crowd, winning hearts along the way — including that of Amanda Palmer. Hell, she makes that omnipresent “Sail” song sound so good, I want to hear it. In the end, the masses chose the same old, same old — which is fine. There is a deserved place for that mainstream sound.
And honestly, I think Robichaud was better served with her freedom. I’d hate to see the machine attempt to cage such a tiger of a sound.
Successfully Kickstarting her debut album, Kat Robichaud and The Darling Misfits, the artist who could very well be the lovechild of Ann Wilson and Ziggy-era Bowie is uncompromising and genuine. Playing out like a glam opera, the album tracks at thirteen songs plus an alternate version of its opener. Darting from ballads to punchy rockers, it’s an album that feels as much a fantasy as the pages of a diary.
Intriguing to me, opener “The Elephant Song” sets a tone for the album that evokes Voice judge Christina Aguilera‘s stellar Back To Basics album and its circus-themed disc two. Almost scathing in its shredding of the false promises of the American Dream and fame itself, it almost stings to listen to — which is why it’s so stellar. It lays a foundation, a sort of call to attention akin to The Wall‘s opening salvo.
Album highlight “Somebody Call The Doctor” is an unabashed love song to cult favourite TV series Doctor Who, although one oblivious to the wink-nudge fun could simply revel in the frantic lust amplified by Robichaud’s soaring voice. Catchy and infused with a sixties sensibility, it is still theatrical and distinctly Kat. Conversely, the piano-driven ballad “It’s Cruel That You Should Be So Beautiful” proves that stripping down the accompaniment only allows the raw emotion of Robichaud‘s sound to shine.
This is what makes this album a strong debut: Robichaud‘s good sense to pull on genres to suit the story she’s unfurling, to set a scene and bring it to life. Consider the twists of the aforementioned Palmer’s trademark cabaret punk on the swaggering “Rock Stars Don’t Apologize”, the industrial tango feel of “Electrotica” or the burlesque jazz of “Definition of Pretty” — three divergent styles, ultimately pulled together by Robichaud‘s themes of rejecting conformity in a struggle towards embracing the self.
Perhaps the album’s crowning achievement is the roaring anthem “The Apple Pie and The Knife”, a song that takes on gender expectations and slut-shaming with the precision of a Misono knife. If the album truly is a glam-rock opera, this would be the grand climax of action, and it shows in the rapid-fire verses and its Nightwish-esque bridge that pulses like a stalking predator. “You want the apple pie, but I’m the knife too sharp to swallow,” Robichaud charges at her would-be detractors in a moment that makes you simply scream, “Yes! Goddamn it, YES!”
Kat Robichaud and The Darling Misfits may have a few rough edges here and there — moments where the lyrical punches don’t always land perfectly — but it’s an album brimming with stark honesty and daring. For that alone, it deserves your attention more than the calculated competition of the week.
Highlights: “Somebody Call The Doctor”; “The Apple Pie and The Knife”; “Definition of Pretty”; “Rockstars Don’t Apologize”
Final Grade: A-
Learn more about Kat Robichaud at her official site. In the meantime, if you need more convincing, enjoy the lyric video for “Somebody Call The Doctor” below.