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Cate Le Bon – 'Mug Museum' album review

The Welsh singer-songwriter decamps to LA, but retains her gothic appeal

By Clare Considine |
Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
It’s not entirely clear, on a first listen to Cate Le Bon’s new album, why she relocated to LA to record it. After all, this is an artist whose first release was sung in Welsh, and who recorded her debut album in Cardiff (with equipment borrowed from Super Furry Animals). Perhaps for her third record she needed those pesky palm trees and the oppressively chirpy wholegrain sunshine as a foil to her dogged Welsh sombreness. Surely it isn’t possible that she’s simply decided she likes Hollywood more than Pontypridd?

There are plenty of American influences detectable on ‘Mug Museum’. At a time when The Velvet Underground are omnipresent as a result of the death of Lou Reed, Le Bon will inevitably attract a few comparisons to Nico: her brand of haughty psychedelia clearly borrows greatly from Warhol’s superstar. But Le Bon ensures that she takes that sound to somewhere new with a certain timeless gothic appeal that is all her own. On tracks like ‘Duke’ there is a childlike joy in those high notes that (tantalisingly) she never quite hits, and on ‘I Think I Knew’, a duet with Seattle singer Perfume Genius, the mournful vocals are saved from outright gloom by a twinkly percussion throughout.

But for all that, Le Bon’s a true Carmathenshire girl at heart. It shines through with a glint of cheekiness on ‘Are You With Me’ when she croons to her ‘baby’ in her thick Welsh accent – and it’s no surprise that in making ‘Mug Museum’ Le Bon flew in her friends from Wales to form her backing band. All of which suggests that far from a defector to Tinseltown, she may just be a refreshingly confident kind of artist who wants to educate the Transatlantic tastemakers to her idiosyncratic appeal rather than hoping that they’ll mould her to easy marketability. Buy this album here

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