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What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
Quirky songstress loses her edge
Ed Power, 25 May 2012
Regina Spektor’s early records were skewed goth pop delights, awash with ragged ballads about cancer and ghosts, and percussion solos tapped out on broken chair legs. But by 2006’s Begin To Hope you could sense she was struggling to reconcile her desire to sell lots of albums with her natural tendency towards unconventional songs.
Three years on, with the Jeff Lynne-assisted Far, she’d crossed over. All the rough edges in her writing had been buffed away and what you were left with was a fat record mogul’s idea of edgy – she sounded less like Tori Amos or Joanna Newsom, and more like a sweetly whimsical Alanis Morrissette. Recorded in Los Angeles with Fiona Apple producer Mike Elizondo, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is, predictably perhaps, more of the same. Several songs date from her pre-major label days but, so suffocatingly glossy is the production, it’s hard to tell the vintage stuff from the new. She trills and over-enunciates and mugs her way through piano workouts such ‘Small Town Moon’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ but there are few sharp corners in her writing.
In fairness, if you’re coming to her for the first time, the super-buffed quirkiness might feel endearing. However, anyone with memories of the Spektor of Soviet Kitsch from 2005 will sigh and wish she’d stop trying to please everybody.