No Place Like Home is the debut album from Londoner Gemma Rogers and it’s a fantastic Pic ‘N’ Mix of different musical styles and emotional moods. Rogers weaves story vignettes into her songs and the album feels like a compilation of award-winning short stories.
All the tracks crackle with the electricity of modern life beginning with ‘Stop’ which is as compelling as Squeeze at their best; a light & dark song driven by the low chunk of gritty acoustic guitar and some fine lyrics – “I wanna bare my soul to the Instagram nirvana, another little nibble for the digital piranhas. What they gonna feed on if there’s nothing on my feed, swiping on a cracked screen until your fingers bleed. Stop. Just stop.’ ‘My Idea of Fun’ (video below) in one of the albums stand-out tracks, a 16-bit full-cream ska about the fun and frenzy of drinking with friends, flirting and the joys of rum; lots of rum. It’s a track that I imagine has audiences leaping and chanting “My idea of fun, my idea of fun, is a whole bottle of rum, that’s my idea of fun”. ‘Dance of A Thousand Faces’ feels like a modern folk song or sea shanty as it rides the swells of strings and major and minor keys.
There are out and out pop songs like the rolling melancholy of ‘I’m In Love’, the modern pop-lullaby of ‘Time Of Your Life’ and the jumping bean bounce of ‘Rabbit Hole’ which, along with, ‘First World Problems’ are anthems for the good/bad conundrum of modern life. These float past like perfectly formed pop bubbles but you also get the icy shimmer of ‘Tailspin’ and the arpeggiated summer warmth of ‘Song For The Cities’.
Gemma Rogers mixes the conversational with the tuneful, and I get the impression that Gemma is a musical magpie who lets lyrics determine tempo and style. I also suspect her antennae are always on the look out for ways to translate what she sees and hears into a well-crafted turn of phrase that’s trying to make sense of modern life. And, through it all, Gemma Rogers’ voice is strong and true, packed with estuary inflection and an honesty that is rare in pop nowadays. And it’s that honesty which gives the songs the wonderful sense of being news reports from the cultural front line.
Review by Paul F Cook