Laura Kidd’s debut album is an impressive demonstration of her multiple skills. The Young Punx co-writer and vocalist is also a talented bassist (having toured with the likes of Tricky), and has not only recorded and co-produced everything on Disarm herself, but also designed the artwork and made the videos. She Makes Music, then, and Art, and Film… Having toured the album by Megabus after its earlier, limited release in 2010, this wider reissue now provides an opportunity to properly appraise Kidd’s achievement.
Disarm is a strikingly full and multilayered set. Nominally ‘acoustic’ music, of the likes found here on ‘Scared To Capsize’, ‘Let This Be’ and ‘I Am’, is rarely this engaged, passionate and upfront. Although the guitar is the main weapon in Kidd’s armoury – looped and strummed, it veers from unplugged sweetness to electric, heavy riffing – the mix is also enhanced from time to time by her use of other instruments. Harpist Kat Arney’s contribution to ‘No Fireworks’ only enhances the song’s complicated yet ultimately moving love-song-that’s-not-quite-a-love-song feel.
Piano recurs throughout the album, whether leading the dark and doomy anti-war rhetoric of ‘NIMN’, bringing a touch of music hall jaunt to ‘Eye Spy’, or adding single, sombre, alternating notes (and with them a sense of gravity) to the concluding track ‘(Love) Like Liars’. Synths, too, are employed for texture, adding a hard edge to the Garbage-like ‘Got Milk’ and bleeps to counterpoint the unsettling percussive taps on the driven, angry ‘A-Hole’; only on ‘GhostsAndShadows’ do they add lightness: tinkling and contributing to the light, lovely and wistful mood of the track.
Mostly, though, this is music with attitude and a seemingly deep-seated anger to express and vent. On ‘No Fireworks’, Kidd sings that there is “so little to fight about”, but elsewhere she finds ample scope – from the anti-war campaign of ‘NIMN’ to ‘Let This Be’, which sings of “dropping bombs in foreign fields”. Much of the emotion seems to stem from a sense of betrayal (‘Chicken’, ‘A-Hole’), or love gone wrong (‘Olympian’), confirming that love can truly be a battlefield.
With an endearingly English enunciation – especially noticeable on ‘Scared To Capsize’, ‘Chicken’ and ‘No Fireworks’, the latter track all glottal stops and attitude – one senses that this is not an artist to pander to conventions or compromise with her creativity. As she puts it at the album’s close, on ‘(Love) Like Liars’, “All I’m asking for is a little soul / a little fire”. Soul, fire and more are all unarguably what She Makes War delivers.
[Self-released; July 11, 2011]