Review Summary: Her darkest album by far!
Wow! This was a long, long way from the likes of Kylie's PWL days churning out squeaky-clean pop like 'I Should Be So Lucky'. In fact listening to 'Impossible Princess' you'd be hard-pressed to realise this is actually the same artist.After Kylie fled the PWL label in 1992, she signed to Deconstruction, which saw her grow and mature as an artist. Suddenly the critics sat up and took notice, including all of those that had previously shunned her as just a mere product of the Stock, Aiken & Waterman hit-making machine. Her eponymous 1994 studio album gained quite a lot of critical praise, many noticing how considerably Kylie had developed her singing style.
In between her next studio album, she gained further accolades from the serious music press by duetting with Nick Cave on the macabre 'Where The Wild Roses Grow', a morbid number in which Kylie plays Cave's victim after he caves her head in. A huge commercial success to boot, it did leave some wondering where Kylie was heading to next. Well, she went on further experimenting, collaborating with the likes of the Manic Street Preachers, Rob Dougan and Brothers In Rhythm, all credible and highly revered producers. This culminated in the album 'Impossible Princess' and it was clear it was a project where she was making some kind of statement. Gone were the happy-go-lucky lyrics and bubbly vocals from Kylie, replaced with a dark, edgy, angry, even paranoid persona. Does it work" A big YES! BUT, I will admit, when it first came out and like so many others I didn't like it. My bad! I guess, like many other fans, it was so drastically different from anything she had done before that I just didn't quite know what to make of it. NOW, though, I consider this a highlight in her career.
Although considered a relative failure in commercial terms (by her high standards that is), this is easily her most artistic, diverse and adventurous album. Sadly, it seemed she wasn't quite able to shake off the image people had of her as the smiling girl-next-door, pop-dance princess, and thus wasn't taken too seriously (NME magazine calling her a "fraud"). Thankfully though, critical revisionism has seen this album receiving the wide accolades it really deserved at the time. It is now often labeled as a "forgotten classic".
Although this phase in her career is often referred to as "Indie Kylie", I think that is actually not a fair or true representation of this album. It covers an amalgamation of various styles, including trip-hop, trance, rock and much more. Stand outs for me include the opening number 'Too Far', which is ethereal in tone, intense, almost agraphobic. Frenetic in tone, Kylie's opening sullen, pent-up spoken passage is accompanied by creepy horror movie piano and sweeping cello before kicking in to the haunting chorus backed by a dark, thumping techno arrangement. This would have made the ideal single release.
Instead, the single's premier single was the indie-oriented 'Some Kind Of Bliss', which jumped on the Britpop bandwagon of the time and was met with instantly scathing reviews from critics. A blistering rock track with soaring strings. Kylie's almost unrecognisable here, hence why it may have charted disappointingly. Yet, strangely, this has held the test of time very well and is one that has grown on me in the ensuing years.
'Did It Again' became the second single and was a fairly vicious number, co-written by Brothers In Rhythm, which sees Kylie's vocals entwined with tinkling sitar and aggressive electric guitar work. The violent, slamming 'Through The Years' encapsulates a trip-hop flavour and Kylie delivering a frustrated, tortuous performance which proves highly effective, while a breezy highlight has to be the frothy 'I Don't Need Anyone', which, in spite, of its sombre, depressed lyrics, is quite jolly in spirit.
The angst-ridden 'Jump', is beautifully dramatic while the ethereal 'Breathe', (another single) is excellent and one of the most commercially-slanted of the album. 'Drunk' is another doom-ridden song, the lyrics quite contradictory, while 'Limbo' packs a wallop and serves as another highlight, Kylie's despairing cutting through the track. The electric fiddle adds to the mayhem in the immensely catchy 'Cowboy Style' and the climatic track 'Dreams' feature lots of eerie-sounding strings, booming bass, crashing drums which create a swirling cinematic fairytale and Kylie at her most outspoken. This is not your ordinary Kylie!
Excellence all the way and wouldn't mind seeing Kylie do another album like this. Now it's nearly twenty years old, 'Impossible Princess' has aged remarkably well, probably more than any other album that she recorded in the 1990s. It was interesting side-step in her career and such a shame that it was savaged by critics at the time, but it's certainly grown in reputation. The poor sales of this album led Kylie being dropped from the Deconstruction label, but it was all a blessing in disguise as when she returned to her previous incarnation of catchy dance-pop, she'd enjoy the biggest period of her career. This album, though, does not deserve to be dismissed by any means.