Album Reviews

Cate Le Bon: Pompeii

The Welsh songstress returns with arguably her best record yet.

The name Cate Le Bon has become a major force in music over the last few years it seems, even though she’s been kicking around since 2009 quietly plying her art.

It was 2019’s Reward and a few production credits, notably Deerhunter and John Grant, where the admiration of established artists such as Jeff Tweedy, however it feels Le Bon that has truly arrived more than ever in 2022.

Pompeii is album number six and what a statement it is. It could be her best work yet without any flash entries or splashes.

Le Bon uses the bleakness, suffering and endless sea of sorrow that this pandemic has brought us, but has turned it into pure gold dust with a sublime set of songs that showers us in the beauty of the artistry in which she so giftedly bathes us in.

As an overall whole Pompeii (yes, make those comparisons, the empire is truly crumbling) was created in a vacuum; one of stark isolation and yet feels both light and heavy, small and large all simultaneously. It feels like a bedroom pop record on steroids. It’s grandiose and once you start living in this record, the more it’ll start feeling like home and fill you with warmth.

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Not only lyrically playful, it’s so compositionally bold and challenging – the songs created continue to make more of an impression with each listen as the complexities unravel before your eyes and ears. It’s always interesting, unique and quirky.

The story goes with White Fence or Tim Presley, an artist in his own right, and Le Bon’s partner gifts her a painting, that the canvas of that work itself was the foremost influence here as well as Le Bon’s perpetual fascination with the dada art movement. The Welsh artist currently residing in Joshua Tree in Los Angeles, and actually recorded this record in Cardiff in a home in which she lived 15 years prior!

Cate Le Bon - Pompeii

Le Bon, playing essentially every instrument here, is supported by Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa on drums, Stephen Black and Euan Winshelwood on saxophone and clarinet, respectively.

Dirt on the Bed opens the record in the most murkiest of fashions with brass weirdness that creates a sudden haze that transports you into this world that becomes so emotionally relatable. Moderation is notably the most upbeat number on the record which is lyrically a conundrum we all face on a daily basis.

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Every track onwards is a hooky delight, wallowing in the reflection of the strangeness the world now offers us – the title track for me the centrepiece (“Got an ugly wait for the morning papers”), stinging with a thematic wave of the state of things is felt viscerally.

For me Cry Me Old Trouble is the highlight – the squealing, crying guitars mimicking the sense of dread each 24 hour cycle spurns upon us – it’s just incredible. 

The final word is Pompeii is such a statement that Le Bon is leaving her contemporaries in the dust, it’s that good – a densely atmospheric masterwork that will be the warm hug when there’s no one around. It’s nine songs and 43 minutes of an artist instrumentally and vocally firing on all cylinders. 

Pompeii is out now via Mexican Summer. Purchase from Bandcamp.

2 replies on “Cate Le Bon: Pompeii”

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