The Bleeding Obvious is the moniker and musical brainchild of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Rowbottom, who hails from Yorkshire, England. She describes her music as theatrical electronica, which is a good attempt to broadly classify it. But her music is actually very varied and eclectic in style, due to her numerous influences.
She cites progressive rock like Genesis, pop artists like Elton John, Pet Shop Boys, and the more alternative Chumbawamba and Saint Etienne as influences. Her upbeat poppier tracks certainly capture the exuberance and uplifting vibe of the 80’s hi-NRG style. This is in evidence on this E.P., Spectrum. It contains five tracks, which are either remixes or reinterpretations of songs that originally appeared on her first two albums. These were her eponymous debut in 2016, and 2017’s Rainbow Heart.
As a genderqueer lesbian, Jessica often writes about issues regarding gender and sexual orientation and these are manifest in the opening Spectrum (Hacienda remix). This is an instant toe-tapper of a track, musically sounding like the Pet Shop Boys produced in the style of New Order (the Manchester group whose success funded the Hacienda nightclub).
Jessica’s vocal delivery is halfway between Neil Tennant in an extrovert mood and the late, great comedienne Victoria Wood, who she acknowledges as an influence. This retro style is combined with cutting edge, modern lyrics which are perfect for this liberal era, the catchy chorus running, “We’re on a spectrum, eccentric perfection…”. Combining risqué with the dryly humorous, it has the potential to become an anthem for the LGBTQ community.
Second track Wallflower (Classical reprise) is a stark contrast. This is a radically different version to the Wallflower that first appeared on her debut. It’s a poignant song about feeling isolated by your sexual/gender orientation is suited to this sparse but beautiful arrangement of piano and strings. It shows a deeper, more sensitive side to her songwriting as well as a musical sophistication which bodes well for her artistic longevity.
Third track Gender Babylon, continues a similar theme of dealing with repression and wanting to come out. Musically, this is just vocal, acoustic guitar and harmonica which concentrates focus on the powerful imagery of the lyrics: “Days at home, hiding the clothes, change in a layby hidden by shadows…”. Certain lines brought to mind the dry humour of Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, especially: “Jennifer, Emily, Zoe or Lisa, pick a name and hope it suits ya…”. A very human and moving song.
Me, Myself and I shows her sophistication, with this song done in a jazzy, big band style. It’s a bittersweet ballad about refusing to be heartbroken by a relationship ending and embracing the freedom of being single again. It’s a song Victoria Wood would have been proud of, who didn’t only write humorous songs, and there’s a trace of her style in the vocal delivery. The vibraphone contribution truly lends a touch of class.
The E.P. ends on a very positive note with the sunny, optimistic pop of One Foot In Front Of The Other, which is a radio edit version of a song that first appeared on Rainbow Heart. The radio edit was a good idea, as this song is most definitely single material and perfect for radio.
With a throbbing bassline and irresistible vocal melody, it brought to mind the quirky, left-field pop of The Teardrop Explodes and I can’t give higher praise than that! Guaranteed to cheer you up however you’re feeling with its infectious energy, this could be the song that catapults her to a much bigger audience.
Overall, this is an excellent E.P. of seductive, sassy pop that skillfully balances the retro with the modern, the serious with the humorous, the uplifting with the melancholy and the commercial with a strong individual persona. The range of genres she covers gives her the edge over artists who corner themselves into a musical niche and her bravery in dealing with gender/sex issues makes her message highly apposite for these revolutionary times.
VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10