Nadine Shah: Filthy Underneath – Musician pours her pain into her best album so far

A thought-provoking and poignant musical exploration of the light and shade of life

Filthy Underneath
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Artist: Nadine Shah
Genre: Pop
Label: EMI North

If you thought Nadine Shah’s 2020 album Kitchen Sink was her most personal so far, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet. The English musician’s fifth album comes after a deeply traumatic few years during which her mother died, she became addicted to an unspecified “substance”, her marriage crumbled and her mental health deteriorated. After a period of rehab, Shah recovered and has poured her pain into her best album to date.

These are often uncomfortably intimate songs, whether it’s recounting the tempestuous nature of her therapy sessions on Topless Mother (“Look at you now, edge of your seat / I pay you money just to humour me”) or the death of her mum on the achingly tender See My Girl (“See her dressed in her leopard print and I hear her singing out of tune / I am holding a note for her”). French Exit, meanwhile, is an eerie, haunting recollection of her suicidal ideation (“A quiet little way out, nothing explicit”).

The lyrical content is heavy, but Shah’s freewheeling sense of improv and experimentation keeps things moving, whether it’s the dramatic, Depeche Mode-esque Keeping Score, the snaky Arabic swirls of Food for Fuel, the clattering psychedelia and aggressive streaks of synth on Greatest Dancer or the excellent spoken-word track Sad Lads Anonymous.

Filthy Underneath may have been a cathartic exercise for Shah; for listeners it’s a thought-provoking and poignant musical exploration of the light and shade of life.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times