Proud surreal stance and real-life adventures of one of the hottest duos in English Wonderland.
There’s no half-measures for Doris Brendel who inadvertently made a dismal point of her last record’s title, "Not Utopia", by almost falling out of the window while recording its follow-up – although this album’s homespun, harmonica-honored title piece doesn’t refer to that event. Thankfully, Lee Dunham entered the attic studio just in time to grab her legs, which about sums up the pair’s creative relationship, with the guitarist coming to the singer’s rescue when an additional force is needed.
Not that Doris herself is not a force of nature, one who appears not only sultry, as usual – and gentle as in “Tumbling Away” where folk is married to beats and Brendel’s piano – but also feisty here. It doesn’t take an ivories-driven ballad-to-speed “A Little Act Of Defiance” to express such a position; a threat is set well before that, in the funky “Slap Me And You Die,” yet you can imagine – given the lady’s looks she addresses in “Adored” to the accompaniment of a weighty bass and Lee’s acoustic, close to flamenco, lace – it would be a sweet murder. All this might be the result of a nothing-to-lose recklessness oozing out of the riff-laden opener “The Devil Closed The Door On Me” which shows how, by now, Doris has grown into a top-class blues singer while retaining her traditionally playful attitude.
What’s unexpected is Brendel’s easy handling of a heavy metal environment, Dunham’s original habitat: she’s as elegant there as on the strings-drenched “Still Running,” a delicate, if just as defiant, rumination on life. Yet then Doris grabs a sax and Lee an ukelele, and the duo stage a sun-kissed carnival in “Life Is A Mushroom” to tap into their Alice and Mad Hatter thing – making clear that no matter how their world is turned, it’s all the same, it’s all perfectly, albeit excitingly, normal. Here’s a celebration of existence for everyone to join in.