Poet/rapper Kate Tempest’s fantastic debut album, Everybody Down, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2014. Miraculously, Let Them Eat Chaos is even better. It puts our lives into perspective, beginning with the vastness of space, before zooming in to our planet, where we learn about 7 people who are all awake at 4.18am, in different flats, on a single street in London. This album is a compelling journey through these different minds, drawing attention to the complexity of every human and the connections between us all.
As you might expect from someone who has won the Ted Hughes Award for poetry, as well as writing plays and a novel, the lyrics are astonishing – in fact, they’re the best I’ve ever heard. Every verse is packed with internal rhymes and assonance, but it never feels forced; it’s a delight to listen to, yet every line serves a purpose.
“Although the album tells the stories of fictional characters, they’re heartbreakingly human and reveal a lot of fundamental truths”
She has a knack for choosing the best small details to set the imagination in motion, allowing a complete scene to be set whilst keeping a good pace. And don’t expect any abstract metaphors; this is a hard-hitting call for us all to look more closely at reality. Although the album tells the stories of fictional characters, they’re heartbreakingly human and reveal a lot of fundamental truths.
The vocal delivery is every bit as good as the words. Tempest’s voice is dynamic, expressive and versatile, varying from the intense, rhythmically precise rapping on tracks such as ‘Ketamine For Breakfast’, to captivating spoken word sections, to the mellow and melodic vocals in ‘Pictures On A Screen’.
“I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the last two tracks, ‘Breaks’ and ‘Tunnel Vision’, completely blew me away on the first listen”
Production duties were taken by Dan Carey, who also worked on the first album. The instrumentals always compliment the vocals, often a combination of drum machines and lo-fi twisted synths, at times ambient and expansive. Occasionally the pitch of instruments drifts around restlessly. The deep, dark groove and ringing snare of ‘Grubby’ is phenomenal, the perfect accompaniment to a forceful description of suffering after a relationship.
Every song is fantastic, but ‘Europe Is Lost’ is a definite highlight. It’s a ferociously truthful summary of modern society, viciously critiquing the prevalent mindset of prioritising easy distractions, and our tendency to focus on our own immediate gratification rather than making meaningful connections with each other and facing up to the real problems. It’s incredibly relevant to the present day, with Kate Tempest barely pausing for breath as she moves through topics including climate change, consumerism, racism, oil spills, police brutality, poverty and politicians.
The whole album flows seamlessly and has a definite sense of completeness. The most notable transition is when the thick distorted synth of ‘Perfect Coffee’ cuts through the ambience at the end of ‘Pictures On A Screen’, as the scene changes to two doors down, where Zoe is passing the last few hours before she moves house. She’s packing up everything from old love letters to a stolen road sign, and reflecting on how gentrification has changed the area she grew up in. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the last two tracks, ‘Breaks’ and ‘Tunnel Vision’, completely blew me away on the first listen, and the final track’s powerful reiteration of the themes in ‘Europe Is Lost’ is superb.
Let Them Eat Chaos is a powerful reminder that we shouldn’t use distance as an excuse to ignore all the things that are happening on this planet at this very moment. If everybody listens to Kate Tempest’s words, there might be hope for our species after all.
Image courtesy of Kate Tempest via Twitter