There's a lot to be said for the beer test. As in, which of two people would you rather sit down over a beer with? Certainly this factor played some role in the last American presidential election, though whether of not that was good is completely inseparable from political presuppositions at this point.
But enough about politics. Here's the question for this review: given your choice between the following attractive, brunette, female, Jewish, pop musical stars, who would you rather have a beer with: a)Regina Spektor or b) Amy Winehouse? Now the smart money's on Spektor, because if the British tabloids are to be believed, Winehouse would probably finish off a case, and then belt you over the head with a bottle, just for the hell of it.
But to make judgements on such grounds is not always the best course of action. And just listening to this latest offering from Winehouse is enough to make me want to write a review of it. It's the sort of music that makes me want to use trite music review words, like "rollicking" and "infectious." But I'll refrain.
The music is obviously influenced by Ray Charles and his contemporaries, that era where jazz could still be heard beneath the rock. But there's a modern edge too. So yes, saxophones, piano, and a nod to Phil Spector on the production, but we've got drum loops too. And her voice is pure soul.
There are on iTunes the "Explicit" and the "Clean" versions of this record, which should tell you something about the lyrics. But either way, when the first words on the album are "they tried to make me go to rehab, an' I said no, no, no" you know this is probably not a girl you take home to mom, no matter how poetic she is. She is poetic though, and clever too, stating in the title track "we only said goodbye with words," implying the end of a relationship that was more. In "I'm no good" she is frank about infidelities of her own.
This is the blues, and Winehouse is writing what she lives. But it's hard not to hum along, and it's that invitation to share in her musical catharsis which makes this a great listen.