Reviews Search


The debut album of ex-Blue Airplanes member Hazel Winter is a blues-tinged, distortion-wracked set of ruminations on bad times and uncomfortable intentions. Winter's voice shifts from cracked whisper to murderous wail, evoking Portishead's Beth Gibbons and PJ Harvey. Coincidentally, perhaps, Put Away the Sharp Knives features the contributions of Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley and Harvey producer and collaborator John Parish.

Despite the stellar line-up and absolutely vicious, fuzzed-out, and totally tasty mixes, song after song on fractured relationships and dangerous attractions can wear a little thin. That is, like the rantings of any perpetually angry and disturbed person, Winter's material comes on with seductive force, but gets a bit grating on the nerves. That criticism aside, several songs are standouts in this set. "Skin" seems to simmer with deadly quiet compared to the clamor of surrounding tunes. "It's hot as hell in here / You'll burn up on entry, burn up if you come near / It's hot as hell in here / Need a heat seeking missile to penetrate this atmosphere...Watching me undress / Can you see you're wearing one skin less?" Winter coos suggestively, though her voice is ice. "Running on Empty" opens with clawing guitars and reaches a rumbling howl with groaning guitar distortion. Simplicity wins again on "Slidedown," where subtle circling guitars are used to devastatingly desolate effect. The vocals seem their most intimate here: breathy, hushed, and breaking. The lyrics on "Dreamtime" are so exaggerated they're kitsch. "The lights are on and no one's home And there's breathing down my telephone / How did all that happen without me seeing/ How did all that blood get on my ceiling ... Dialing 999 I feel my face drain / The operator knows me by my first name." Overall, though the sound isn't completely fresh, the album occasionally has the power to drag you in-or under-with it.