Rachel Fuller’s debut Cigarettes & Housework plays like a classical-pop mélange of various female singer-songwriter influences from the last 15 years—Sarah McLachlan, latter-day Alanis, among others—all wrapped loosely in an easy-to-swallow MOR rock package. She benefits from some good songwriting input from Jo Youle on several tracks, particularly “Praying” and “Ghost In Your Room,” the electric guitar solo of which (courtesy of boyfriend/mentor Pete Townshend) slices straight through the mush. But left to her own devices, Fuller’s songs are often overwrought with clichés and greeting card sentimentality—she even manages to compose the lyrics of an entire song, “Imperfection,” around one tired chestnut. The nauseating title track might as well have been called “Tales Of A Teenage Chambermaid”: “Vacuuming the sofa trying to make sense of it all/Sweeping under carpet all my pain with all the dirt.” It’s Tori Amos-lite—confessional but completely unprovocative. “Into My Heart,” despite its sprawling classical flourishes and rock guitars, is still painfully pedestrian: “You don’t hear me as I scream before you,” she sings, evoking “Silent All These Years” but lacking the harrowing realization of powerlessness of Amos’s one simple lyric, “My scream got caught in a paper cup.” Perhaps a bit more Townshend would have given Cigarettes & Housework some much needed grit.
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