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Single Review: Charlotte Church – How Not To Be Surprised When You’re A Ghost

Photo: Sandrine Dulermo and Michael Labica

As you watch Charlotte Church frolick in the woods, singing a song titled ‘How Not To Be Surprised When You’re A Ghost’, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Florence and the Machine influence has gone a little too far. But turn up the audio and you’ll see that, thankfully, that she is innovating instead of emulating. There is something beautifully unexpected about the whole affair that highlights exactly why it is so innovative, though, and it all comes from the name of the girl herself. It’s going to be a major talking point through the whole campaign, but Charlotte has made her second big leap in music. Just as we got used to her operatic charm, she brought out the pop diva and now the indie muso is showing her face. The strangest thing of all is that she pulls it off spectacularly.

That isn’t to say that we’re listening to something entirely unheard, though. There are tastes of Kyla La Grange to the whole affair, a bit of Snow Patrol in the final chorus and the unmistakable voice of Church that we’ve been hearing for well over a decade now. The vocal delivery is great; Charlotte stated herself that she was keen to push her limits on her upcoming material and this is clear evidence of that. It might not be as controlled as on the albums from her youth, but it’s definitely still the main tool of her trade. Prepare yourself for a huge finish, too. The song climbs into a festival-ready close, complete with pounding drums and a few notes lifted from her ‘Pie Jesu’ days.

Written by her previous-bassist and current-guitarist, the lyrics deal with the impending death of a loved one but don’t worry, it isn’t over-saturated with emotion. Instead, it’s an interesting look at the evocative subject of what happens after death. Church whispers the title lyric over some haunting synths, setting the atmosphere nicely, before throwing up some interesting thoughts; ‘your love from years before, who got here before you will love you like she did back then’. Its philosophical theme may be cast off by some as pretentious, but it’s delivered without any arrogance and conjures plenty of thought and discussion and that can never be a bad thing.

Now an indie-rock chanteuse, Charlotte Church is at her most believable. It was quite the genius turn of events, wasn’t it? Make a name for herself amongst both young and old, eat up the celebrity status (complete with her own chat show!) and then reappear with jangly guitars and a penchant for drama. There are going to be underrated starlets worldwide playing a guitar and singing sweetly that will never be heard and, love it or hate it, thanks to her past, Charlotte will never be one of them. Regardless, all of the story so far inconsequential now that she has a new lease of life and the material to back herself up with. ‘How Not To Be Surprised When You’re A Ghost’ is a fantastic start of the next chapter.

Photo: Sandrine Dulermo and Michael Labica
Words: Simon McMurdo

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