Miss Black America - Terminal
Reviewed on Whisperin and Hollerin

Our Rating: 8/10

Talk about raves from the grave: I’d almost forgotten about this lot. For the uninitiated MISS BLACK AMERICA threatened to be “something big’ about three years ago with their debut ‘God Bless Miss Black America’. They weren’t afraid of letting everyone know about it either but proved to be more than just rent-a-mouths by securing favouritism from the late John Peel: all 3 singles from their debut made the 2002 Festive 50.

Then it all started to go wrong. NME slated the album while HMV and Virgin refused to stock it. Their label Integrity Records went tits up leading to the band’s implosion. Just as the new line-up got into its stride gobby lead singer/guitarist Seymour Glass nearly killed himself with drink at the end of 2003 resulting in blood sugar problems and a period of recuperation. This, after all, is the man who had at the outset of his career ripped off the pinkie of his left hand leaving himself unable to play guitar for a year.

Apt then that their sophomore release includes a track called ‘Reborn’ as the album finds the band regrouping and then re-emerging on both fighting and reflective form. First things first: this is a Rock album and new single ‘Dot Dot Dot’ quickly establishes that fact. A belter of a song, that recalls Supergrass’ equally potent ‘Richard III’, it is the sound of a band gleefully throwing caution to the wind and just going for it big time. Starting off loud and then basically just getting ever louder the band manages the not-so-easy feat of encasing the dangerously high decibels with a strong and melodic song structure. Unsurprising then that ‘Drowning By Numbers’ maintains the pace if not the feral impact while ‘Freefall’ starts the process of mixing up the guitar sounds and the arrangements: a ploy that becomes a key feature of the album overall.

‘Beauty of Song’, ‘Reborn’ and ‘Emotional Junkmail’ all build their sound around guitar work reminiscent of The Chameleons. In particular ‘Emotional Junkmail’ is a veritable tour-de-force with a great vocal performance from Seymour Glass that develops from a restrained breathless pulse with muted six-string to an outright cri-de-coeur accompanied by a suitably pained and fraught guitar work-out. It’s the album’s emotional high point.

‘Once More With Feeling’ returns to the stomp and glory of earlier tracks and harbours some unexpectedly playful instrumental breaks while ‘Chemical’ retains the restrained alter ego that the band have now embraced alongside their tempestuous and aggressive Rock bollocks. There’s still room for one more killer track: the acoustically arranged epic ‘Voices’ again recalls The Chameleons whilst retaining the emotional cut and thrust that is the band’s calling card, irrespective of the musical setting . The album is bookend-ed by the reflective ‘Terminal One’ and ‘Terminal Two’.

Containing the spirit of punk and post punk as well as the fervour of Manic Street Preachers and the pyrotechnics of Muse in ‘Terminal’ MISS BLACK AMERICA have made a satisfyingly old-fashioned and impassioned Rock album that suggests a band eminently capable of reaching far greater artistic heights and holding the cards to achieve them. They’re also striding out with a musical agenda that is pointedly different from the current vogue for cool and ironic detachment, preferring to embrace a “hearts on sleeve” approach that gives their music an honest emotional punch that many current bands fail to engage, their noise and bluster merely demonstrative rather than emotive.

Hopefully Seymour Glass’ current illness – which has set back the release of ‘Terminal’ until the Autumn’ – will not prevent MISS BLACK AMERICA from fulfilling the abundant potential that ‘Terminal’ potently demonstrates.

By Different Drum