“[Natalie Imbruglia] lived [on] an island a bit north of Alaska when she was younger. Even though Natalie LOVED to build igloos in her spare time, her ambition [was] to get a job driving a school bus in New York. So Natalie’s parents decided to stuff her in a wooden box and ship her off to New York. Since the boxes were not handled delicately, Natalie suffered extreme brain damage and it still shows today. One day, Natalie was in a bar. She just sat there and stared at the TV’s Mariah Carey performance. When Mariah hit that annoying high note, all the glasses in the bar suddenly exploded. Natalie smiled, she wanted to do that too.” Well, not quite, but so say the creators of Natalie Imbruglia: The Big Mistake, one of many websites dedicated to trashing the pop singer.
Sure, Imbruglia’s breakthrough hit, “Torn,” was terminally overplayed and the album from which it came, Left of the Middle, was slightly schizophrenic. But it’s hard to believe that the Australian singer’s debut infuriated enough people to spawn Anti-Imbruglia sites across the far reaches of the web. With a hand in writing every one of her new songs, though, Imbruglia’s career-dependent sophomore effort, White Lilies Island, is far more consistent. (The album is named after the English isle on which she now lives yet her airy music and persona conjure a much more mystical neverland, replete with pixies and fairy-dust).
Opening track “That Day” displays a passionate urgency (“I’m tired and I’m right/And I’m wrong and it’s beautiful”) while “Butterflies” is unexpectedly darker than her previous work (“Here lies a violet coffin/The death of my control…Cut the stomach out and hand it over”). Both tracks offer more of the jangly guitarwork of “Torn” but, in the current pop landscape, these songs are certainly left of the middle. With lyrics like “Swallow purple terror candy” and “It will all get better/Just try to write it down” (from the electronic-hued “Goodbye”), one can’t help but think Imbruglia was either commissioned to pen a Paxil theme song or endured a little post-“Torn” trauma of her own.
The album’s first single, “Wrong Impression,” is catchy but a bit too dainty for its own good. A more aggressive track like “Do You Love,” with its chunky guitar riffs, or the acoustic-driven “Talk In Tongues,” with its spacey flutes and electronic flourishes, might have served her career better. But alas, White Lilies Island is pure pop and with its organic edge and introspective lyrics, it’s the best kind. Perhaps “Natalie Hoochiemama,” another Anti-Imbruglia website, got it right when they said, “Once a pop tart, always a pop tart.”