“Puts Me To Work” – Cate Le Bon
Unhurried and untidy, “Puts Me To Work” saunters along in its own universe of sound, with a mid-tempo beat that seems uninterested in quite coalescing. Le Bon admits to playing an out of tune piano here but to me the more salient and interesting feature is the instrument’s idiosyncratic resistance to the imperative of meter. Listen carefully to the introduction and notice how the piano chords lag ever so slightly behind the beat—or, perhaps, the beat itself moves past the piano. In any case, it’s a delightfully anomalous effect.
Everything about this song seems to lag and withhold. We don’t hear the chorus until a minute in, and we don’t hear the pay-off, titular line (“It puts me to work”) until the second and final time the chorus comes around, two-thirds of the way through the song.
And okay, once Le Bon starts singing, it’s all that a rock writer can do, it seems, to keep the name “Nico” from spontaneously emerging from his or her computer keyboard. As much as I tried to resist the urge, there is too much in Le Bon’s disaffected mezzo that recalls the one-time “Warhol Superstar.” And it’s not just the voice, and the dainty accent (Le Bon is from Wales)—it’s the world-weary vibe that combines sing-songy simplicity with some kind of instinctive but unutterable wisdom. What nails both the Nico comparison and the song is the cagey hook, which happens when the melody takes her voice to the beginning of the upper part of her range, on the lyrics “And I know you won’t remember” (first heard at 1:01). Right there it feels like the late ’60s all over again, but with better coffee.
“Puts Me to Work” is from Le Bon’s new album, CYRK, which was released this week on The Control Group. This is her second full-length release; she has also released a Welsh-language EP. MP3 via The Control Group, an indie label based in New York City.