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Tropical Brainstorm

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Album Review

This is a very difficult album to critique in a dispassionate way. A singer/songwriter with a nearly perfect bloodline (her father was Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger was her step-mother), Kirsty MacColl had been writing brilliant songs and releasing modestly successful albums since the early '80s. The last time listeners heard from her, on 1993's grim Titanic Days, she had just gone through a painful divorce; she swore that she wouldn't record another album until she could make a happy one. Almost eight years later, she did just that. Tropical Brainstorm is, in part, a celebration of the musical traditions of Cuba, Brazil, and Mexico; mambo and samba rhythms are everywhere, and Latin percussion bumps up against violins, trombones, and nylon-string guitars on almost every track. But the songs' lyrical themes range more broadly — while "Mambo de la Luna" is all about the flavor of life in Cuba, "England 2, Colombia 0" is a hilarious tale of romantic treachery and "Us Amazonians" a wry depiction of a matriarchal tropical utopia. But even when her lyrics cut to the bone, there's an underlying sense of happiness and good humor that was entirely missing from her last album. And there's the rub. What makes this album so difficult to approach with much critical distance is the fact that MacColl was killed in a boating accident several months after it was completed; she died in the ocean off the coast of Mexico, one of the places that inspired the exuberant and sweet-natured music on this wonderful record. How to listen to this music in the wake of that fact? With grateful joy, one supposes. And with a gentler gratitude that she was this happy at the end of her life — if Titanic Days had been her last effort, it would have been difficult listening indeed. [The U.K. edition of this album released by V2 features a few less tracks than the edition released by Instict: "Golden Heart," "Things Happen," "Good for Me," and the video for "Mambo de la Luna" are not found here.]

Customer Reviews

Ruddy 'eck

Chuff me this is really good.
Not much more anyone can say


Kirsty best album. It is uplifting, spellbinding and utterly scathing. A sublime piece of work.

Ten Years Anniversary

Thinking about Kirsty, almost 10 years on from the release of this album, and her untimely death in December 2000. What a fantastic record this is!! A testament to her passion for creative and intuitive songwriting skills. I was so lucky to see her tour this album, in manchester may 16 2000, at the academy. She played alot of the songs here - i'd not heard any of them before, but, I was struck at how immediate they were! how unusual is that?! I still listen to this album regularly - it was one of the albums of the year.

Miss you Kirsty x


Born: 10 October 1959 in Croydon, London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Kirsty MacColl, daughter of folk singer/songwriter Ewan MacColl, began her own musical career while still in her teens, singing in a band called the Addix, and eventually signed to the legendary Stiff Records. Her first single, the modern girl group gem, "They Don't Know," was released in 1979. Though it failed in the charts, it was later a major hit for Tracey Ullman. Kirsty MacColl switched to Polydor in the '80s and landed a U.K. Top 40 hit with the novelty song "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip...
Full bio
Tropical Brainstorm, Kirsty MacColl
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Customer Ratings


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