Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny: Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose

Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose has an intriguing grab bag mentality, but one wonders if a little focus would help in making Houghton’s music more memorable.

Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny

Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose

Label: Mute
US Release Date: 2012-02-28
UK Release Date: 2012-02-06

Those who find Florence Welch's mainstream success off-putting, and her theatrics a bit too treated, have reason to take comfort in Beth Jeans Houghton's more low-key compositions. Being signed to Mute and calling her full-length debut Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose makes it clear Houghton won't be a musical guest on Saturday Night Live or playing shows in Central Park anytime soon. Yet, Houghton's music is far from being suitably odd enough to warrant its loopy album title or Houghton's stage persona (think tiger suits and PJ Harvey's make-up kit circa To Bring You My Love). Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose has an intriguing grab bag mentality, but one wonders if a little focus would help in making Houghton’s music more memorable.

Houghton is one of those pretty folk nymphs who could easily double as a model for an all-natural pore-cleanser. But she's versed in odder sounds – Frank Zappa is a favourite – than some of her peers and has some impressive collaborators: Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose is produced by Ben Hillier, who took the same credit on Think Tank by Blur. Houghton seems to be the best of all worlds, but is she really? Her songs are fairly unpredictable, but they are also quite a ways from revolutionary. There is no eye-opening revision of folk here, but then again Houghton is only 21. It may be unfair to expect Houghton to reinvent a genre when she doesn't even like being labeled as folk. An alternative tag dreamed up by the bassist for her backing band, The Hooves of Destiny, is "sonic theatre," and, no, this man did not choke on his own pretension after coining that.

The highs on the album are galaxy-bound. "Dodecahedron" is stirring, particularly during its outro when Houghton's voice floats over the backing chorus laid out by her Hooves. In subject, it covers slightly similar material to Laura Marling's "Night Terror" but makes something far more ethereal out of the subject matter. "Sweet Tooth Bird" is a peppy and shambling opener that saves itself from some made-up label like folk-garage through the inclusion of some catchy trumpeting.

Houghton’s voice is far less showy than some of her peers, but she still has an impressive amount of vocal dexterity, particularly on softer songs like the almost soulful “Veins.” Houghton’s guitar playing, however, suffers from being too consistently jaunting. Musically overall, the galloping beat motif throughout the album wears with continued listens. Another mismeasured ingredient is spoken word diversions, a route taken in the back-to-back tracks “Atlas” and “Nightswimmer.” When this trail is discarded halfway through, investing in it in the first place feels a bit senseless.

Houghton certainly has chops and much can be forgiven thanks to her age. Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose has enough bright moments to ensure that Houghton will hone her experimentation in time. As lovely as it would be for Houghton to start cramming some Zappa-styled ideas into her songs, it is apparent that Houghton wants her songs to stick. Yours Truly, alas, just wasn't made with a strong enough adhesive.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.