Drugstore, Anatomy

Chris Roberts

By Chris Roberts

on 08.08.11 in Reviews

Drugstore closed shop in 2002 after a decade of almost making it, highlights of which included tours with Jeff Buckley (who covered their “Alive”) and Radiohead (whose Thom Yorke recorded a duet with singer Isabel Monteiro). Brazilian-born Londoner Monteiro then underwent seven years of, as she put it, “spiralling down” until a 2009 reunion gave her fresh faith. She now returns with a fourth album — recorded with a new band — as a distinct, devastatingly candid voice infiltrating a different era. This is not a joyous blockbuster, but a lo-fi whisper of sorrow.

Not a joyous blockbuster, but a lo-fi whisper of sorrow

Somewhere between alt-country and Weimar cabaret, Anatomy is no glibly efficient “return to form.” Its morose chansons cast Monteiro as self-flagellating angst queen. You’ll hear echoes of Nico, Janis Ian and PJ Harvey in these sparse, brittle songs. “Sweet Chili Girl” opens with a hint of Anna Calvi’s flamenco guitar chugs, with Monteiro sighing dryly “one of these days she’s gonna end it all.” Ennui, despair and intimations of suicide colour the work throughout. On the tellingly-titled “Lights Out” she wants to “medicate all the pain out”; on the acoustic ballad “Sinner’s Descent” she pleas for “salt in the wound…I want nothing but pain.” Staying with her is no easy ride, and when “Can’t Stop Me Now” ends with the sound of ticking you wonder if it’s a clock or a bomb.