The Opiates – “Hollywood Under the Knife”

4 stars (out of 5)

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The past 18 months have been busy ones for Billie Ray Martin. She has released records under her own name as well as with Hard Ton, The Crackdown and now, along with Robert Solheim, as The Opiates.

Over 3 years in the making, ‘Hollywood Under The Knife’ sees BRM reunited with the cool, spacious electronic sound of her first and most successful late eighties band; Electribe 101. Martin possesses the kind of voice that makes an impression; a soulful and haunting wail of a thing, perfect for the glamorous and tragic figures she sings about here.

She channels Warhol transexual Candy Darling on the lead single Rainy Days and Saturdays, an obvious and self-conscious nod to The Carpenters and a somewhat foolish attempt to try and make in this case. Much more successful is the second track ‘I’m Not Simone Choule’, a reference to the suicidal character in Roman Polanski’s film ‘The Tenant’ and a suitably chilling and densely structured song that takes time to reveal itself with BRM completely occupying the track like the ghost she’s singing about.

Apart from the Numan-esque synths of the pounding and compelling ‘Reality TV’ and the Giorgio Moroder gallop of the previously released ‘Candy Coated Crime’ this is a mainly downbeat collection of odes to despair and destructiveness and one that gets under the skin due to the hot and cold of Martin’s voice and Solheim’s synths and the high quality of song writing evidenced here; ‘Silent Comes The Nighttime – Again’ takes subtle cues from early house music and is in many ways the second part of Electribe 101’s biggest hit ‘Talking With Myself’ with Martin literally talking to herself again and ‘Jalousies and Jealousies’ melody weaves its way in and out of Martins double tracked, stuttered vocals beautifully.

Recommended.