My Pet Fish
Malka Spigel's third de-facto release for the Swim label continues along the self-styled 'sneaky pop' route initiated with Rosh Ballata. Lighter in feel than Colin Newman's Bastard, the emphasis seems to have shifted from breakbeats to a more refined hip-hop and rock-tinged sound.
One builds on the structural ideas from Bastard (similarly ignoring the verse/chorus approach) but with a cleaner sound. Effected vocals mix with strong beats, lush jangly guitars and a surprisingly jaunty bassline. In contrast, Like Machines is more overtly pop-oriented, but that is by no means a derogatory statement. This is the most complete piece on the album, combining a fairly standard rock drumbeat, layers of guitars and the album's best vocal. It's catchy and pleasant, but with an edge.
Elsewhere, we find some remakes amongst the new tracks. The Fishes in the Shining Sea—existing in various forms since 1988's It Seems tour—is updated with the benefit of ten years of experience. The lyrics are a little flowery but are handled effectively by Spigel, and the instrumentation is near-perfect. It's Odd is a re-recorded version of Rotsa Ladat Od, but with an entirely new set of lyrics (this time in English). This is noticeably improved over the original with better instrumentation, a cleaner, sharper sound and a much stronger beat.
The variety of approaches and sounds puts My Pet Fish above other releases from Spigel and it is mostly a success. Despite the odd weak vocal and arrangement several tracks should be compulsory listening and as such the album comes recommended.
Craig Grannell (1998)