Kendra Smith

Five Ways Of Disappearing (4AD 95) Rating: B+
This solo album by the former Dream Syndicate bassist and Opal vocalist is a weird one, but in a good way. Still, I can see why this album fell through the cracks, and why it's so hard to find today despite being something of an overlooked gem. Kendra immediately asserts herself on "Aurelia," a menacingly atmospheric guitar showcase (actually, there's a surprising amount of good guitar throughout the album) that's worthy of Massive Attack, while "Bohemian Zebulon" begins as a strangely funereal-like instrumental, led along by my beloved pump organ (which appears throughout the album, along with other odd instrumentation such as hurdy gurdy, doumbek, harmonium, and "ghost guitar"). Her singing on this track is decidedly Nico-ish, but she then heads off into poppier territory on "Temporarily Lucy," what with its "bop bop bop" vocals a la Stereolab, while "In Your Head" is even poppier, with almost girlish vocals reminiscent of Juliana Hatfield or Tonya Donnelly. Both of these tracks are extremely melodic and catchy, yet "Space Unadorned" is even better, as words such as "dreamy" and "ethereal" were coined to describe gorgeous songs such as this. "Valley Of The Morning Sun" is another strong song with similar qualities, and "Bold Marauder," a Richard and Mimi Farina cover, is another memorable high point, with an ominous Middle-Eastern vibe and an icily commanding vocal performance from Kendra. Elsewhere the album is less impressive, however, as the rest of Five Ways Of Disappearing is comprised of a few dirge-like mood pieces that are difficult to remember, a couple of not-quite-necessary segues, and even a silly, lighthearted song about "Maggots" (oddly enough, on this song she sings to - not about - maggots). Some of these songs are a bit repetitive, but overall Ms. Smith delivers a diverse and ambitious album that is ultimately more impressive for its stylistic range and overall moodiness than for its individual songs, some of which ("Aurelia" and "Space Unadorned," for example) are admittedly excellent. This challenging album isn't always easy on the ears, but it's consistently interesting (there's some truly inventive guest drumming, for example) and generally entertaining, making its flaws minor when compared to its formidable strengths. Indeed, more solo projects from the provocative Ms. Smith would be welcome.

send me an email

Back To Artist Index Home Page