During the 1980s, before she mustered her talents to create the Kite album, Kirsty MacColl kept busy adding her distinctive vocal colouring to other people’s records. “I got offered lots of really good projects, not just the usual run of the mill stuff, so it was very educational as well”, as she said in 1989. This was the year which saw the release of Kite and, six months later, David Byrne’s album Rei Momo, both produced by her then husband Steve Lillywhite.
It was during the recording of the Rei Momo sessions in New York that Kirsty really got the Latin bug, though she had enjoyed the music previously. Many of those present on that album she would invite to play on Electric Landlady, huge talents like Angel Fernandez, Robby Ameen, Milton Cardona, Lewis Khan and Marc Quiñones. She would say, “It’s great working with people who have lots of ideas. They don’t hang around for days waiting for inspiration, they just get on with it.”
Electric Landlady turned out to be a more eclectic set than her previous album. “I was listening to Kite for the first time in a while”, Kirsty recalled, “and I thought, ‘well that’s really good, but I could make the next album even more enjoyable for myself if I could actually dance to it without being paralytic!’
As its producer said with hindsight, some of the material might have benefitted from a simpler setting, but its highlights are up with her best work, with Kirsty in vibrant and irrepressible form. “I’m even enjoying playing live a lot more now, I’m the rock & roll bitch from hell. Be warned!’
A pitch-perfect voice and a songwriting quill of rare lyrical sharpness yet always tunefully flourished – so why is Kirsty MacColl such an acquired taste? Perhaps because her deadpan delivery is so alien to the RHYTHM-AND-BLUES tradition into which just about every other pop voice fits. By contrast, the only thing you’ll hear raised in a Kirsty MacColl record is a sardonic eyebrow. Because her sales pitch is so cool, you have to meet the songs themselves more than halfway, and, in their slyly unassuming way, these little gems have a lot to offer. Co-written by Johnny Marr (who also contributed to her previous LP, the excellent ‘Kite’), ‘Walking Down Madison ’is a deceptively urban yet down-beat opener to an essentially semi-acoustic student-friendly rock album – their ‘Children Of The Revolution’ is as near to The Smiths as possible without Morrissey in the room – while the Mark E. Nevin collaboration ‘My Affair’ is a contrastingly sassy rebuff to snoops set to a euphoric salsa-hot samba. Also outstanding, ‘The Hardest Word’ is co-penned by brother Hamish and affectingly hymns the importance of telling our nearest and dearest how much they are loved. Mat Snow, Q
Her voice has a sonorous tone and a nimble Celtic lilt but the going is not always easy as she skates across the socially conscious electro-rap of ‘Walking Down Madison’ (co-written with Johnny Marr, who contributes a killer guitar part). The Times
The surprise success of the bunch is ‘My Affair’, where an army of Hispanic musicians under the direction of Angel Hernandez go salsa-crazy behind La MacColl’s cool vocals. This is a defiantly untrendy record, which is one reason it deserves to do well. uncredited
This album began my adoration. I knew “They Don’t Know”, “Fairytale” and “Miss Otis Regrets”, which I was listening to one day when I decided to see if she’d released any albums. I walked to the record store (which is what I continue to call them…lol). On the lower shelf of new releases I was struck by this album cover and the brilliant irony of the concept. I thought to myself, “I bet there’s something bitingly interesting there. I’ll pick it up if I can’t find any Kirsty MacColl.” Nevertheless, I went to the “M” section and felt like a complete dolt. True story. Electric Landlady was one of the only albums I’d listened to, repeatedly, for nearly a year.