Release Date: Aug 25, 2017
Record label: 1965 Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
There have been two great-with-a-capital-G songs written about Brexit; ‘The Fall Of Home’ from Los Campesinos’s bafflingly overlooked Sick Scenes, and now ‘Jolly Sailor’, the poignant punk-ballad which closes Nadine Shah’s new album Holiday Destination. The title was inspired by a pub from Shah’s childhood home in the North-East of England, and ‘Jolly Sailor’ tackles the condescending, classist archetypes projected onto Leave voters in poor, post-industrial areas of the UK. It’s a song of both common compassion and intellectual erudition that never patronises or estranges the listener, and one which encapsulates Holiday Destination’s cogence and balance..
On the cover of her third album, Nadine Shah stands in a bombed-out building. Sun-drenched travelogue this is not; the only holidaymakers here are on the title track, blaming the local refugees for ruining their vacations. After exploring mental health and relationships on her previous records, the South Shields singer-songwriter, with the voice deeper than an Edgar Allen Poe pit, now turns to politics, with the same appealing candour and verbal dexterity.
If any year in recent memory was likely to inspire a political record, it’s 2016, a horror show of rising nationalism, civil wars and an ever-worsening refugee crisis. Nadine Shah has deftly channelled her fury and disbelief at it all into a record that’s both fiercely intelligent and, with its tense Krautrock rhythms, deliciously dark, gothic melodies and gorgeous, strident vocals, moreishlylistenable. Her anger is laser-focused, the title track railing against the lack of compassion for desperate refugees arriving on the shores of Kos, while the simultaneously twitchy and soaring Mother Fighter deftly humanises the Syrian crisis..
Part-way through second album ‘Fast Food,’ Nadine Shah mutters “my mother would be so ashamed of me if I didn’t act in a classy kind of way,” expressing a private, intimate thought in the most open of ways. Nadine’s songs have more often than not been dripping with similar moments of soul-bearing intimacy and passion, sometimes cloaked in a veil of dry wit. With third album ‘Holiday Destination’ though, she channels that passion in a very different way.
While Nadine Shah’s third album Holiday Destination is an excellently considered alt-rock record of articulate instrumentation and intriguing harmony, first and foremost it is a record with an unabashed political and social message: and I think Tyneside-born Shah would want us to hear it that way. Wider social issues have always been prevalent in Shah’s work, but never with such a definite punch. While debut Love Your Dum and Mad dealt with the effects of losing loved ones to mental health issues topics were always dealt out with a tragically personal touch. Without neglecting that personal angle, Holiday Destination is a far wider rallying cry for humankind.
Nadine Shah doesn’t hold back on her third album, a powerful state-of-the-world address. The title track – inspired by witnessing the xenophobia of holidaymakers on the island of Kos – looks at the wider treatment of refugees and asks “How you gonna sleep tonight?” The north-easterner (of Norwegian-Pakistani heritage) brings personal experience and powerful argument to Out the Way’s dissection of anti-immigration feeling (“Where would you have me go? I’m second-generation, don’t you know?”). The song 2016 looks especially prescient in light of Charlottesville (“There’s a fascist in the Whitehouse”).
While previous LPs Love Your Dum and Mad (2013) and Fast Food (2015) didn't necessarily share similar themes, they both revealed how open and unabashed Shah's songwriting can be. As she tackled personal issues surrounding deaths of those she held dear and the anxieties that arise during testing times and relationships, she gave us an insight into her complicated world, laying bare her strengths and fragilities. On Holiday Destination (2017), Shah brings us up to date with the latest issues occupying her mind; most notably the refugee crisis in Europe, the unashamedly banal racism that's plaguing British politics and certain ideals around her own country.
Nadine Shah’s third album surveys the refugee crisis, Syrian families, gentrification, “a fascist in the White House,” Islamophobia, and politicians’ demonization of the north of England. She does a lot of work in ten songs, but it rarely feels like it. On her first two albums, her theatrical voice oozed blood through fairly traditional guitar-band arrangements.