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Album Review

Jane Kennaway never released an album during her moment of near-fame, as did many of the musicians looking to hit the big time in late '70s/early '80s London, but the compilation IOU draws together just about everything she ever recorded to make for an enjoyable listen. The title track leads off the collection and sums up her appeal well enough — there's a theatricality and take-charge aspect to her performances (as well as her vocals) that bear a resemblance to singers like Siouxsie Sioux and Toyah Wilcox, but the music is more like Pat Benatar's, a radio-friendly take on that era's rock & roll that's well sculpted if not immediately thrilling. It actually works pretty well as a clear sonic postcard of an era. It's the following singles and selections from live recordings (many songs appearing in both studio and live incarnations) that showed a little more of Kennaway, though, allowing everything from her gentler folk background (evident on the lovely "Radio" and "5 on 84th St") and an ear for textured guitars in her music akin to work by the Associates ("Celia," "Scratching at the Surface") to show through. Her voice tends to support the calmer well, but songs like "Catch Cool" work in the same vein as "IOU" while having a more distinct individual kick, especially showing an Kennaway's ear for a good chorus. "Year 2000," with its mix of retro-spacy noises and a brisk, punchy beat, isn't quite a secret, quiet influence on Pulp's "Disco 2000," but is still akin to it, as if the youthful version of that band decided to give it a go. Meanwhile, collaborations with a not-yet-famous Thomas Dolby resulted in a turn to synth rock on songs like "I'm Missing You," with her overdubbed, swooping harmonies on the chorus being a real treat. As a nice touch, a late-'90s song from her sporadic recording period after she moved to Devon is included; "Badbye" is very much in the vein of that era's trip-hop obsession, but Kennaway's journeywoman skills serve her well again, given her elegant voice. As is par for the course with LTM, extensive liner notes and an interview with Kennaway fill out the collection.

Iou, Jane Kennaway
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