Drastic Fantastic is a collection of soaring Pop songs and intimate ballads. Produced by Steve Osbourne (producer of Eye to the Telescope) it sees Tunstall's considerable songwriting skills and unique vocals underpinned by a rawer musical backdrop than it's predecessor. Full of powerful lyrics, bold colorful melodies and adventurous musicianship, it's a very definite move forward for Tunstall. Pensive ballads like 'White Bird' and 'Beauty of Uncertainty' are complimented by the infectious lead single 'Hold On', and rollicking pop gems like 'Saving My Face' and the folk-punk of 'I Don't Want You Now'. Virgin.
Don't be put off by the cover photo on K.T. Tunstall's follow-up to the four-million selling Eye of the Telescope
. Yes, it's startling to see her sporting Buck Rogers boots and wielding a glittery, oversized silver guitar. And what's up with the comic book images that make up the CD booklet? But if Tunstall is feeling a bit like her overnight success is something out of interplanetary fiction, the new graphic "positioning" doesnt mean the Scottish singer-songwriter has gone full-blown, diva-fied pop-rock. Rather, she's built on the success of the euphorically catchy "Suddenly I See" and "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" to craft the bouncy kiss-off of "I Don't Want You Now," and the hypnotic beat of "Hold On," with its lyrical warning (shades of Bob Marley's "Judge Not") of karma and responsibility. The new repertoire, like her sensual, slightly slurred singing, is more authoritative, polished, and less bluesy and rough-edged as Eye
, despite a British urban influence. But Tunstall paves her continuum by again using producer Steve Osborne (U2, New Order, Happy Mondays), and with two songs she recorded for the first album--the driving pop-rock of the anti-plastic surgery anthem "Saving My Face" (with its irresistible "ooh-oohs" lifting the mood), and "Funnyman," a pop-alt-folk sonic blend that flirts with electronica. Best of all, Tunstall, who veers from playing a little electric lead guitar to ukulele on the album, is decidedly intent on reprising the spare framework of the songwriter. "White Bird," the most memorable of the four songs that spotlight her poetic, pensive side, amounts to a meditation ("Half of you is heavenly/Showing off your purity"). But whether meant as a metaphor or a literal descriptive paean, a la the romantic 19th-century poets, this melancholy, quiet song finds the 32-year-old musician more confident and on top of her craft than anything on her delicious debut. On the whole, then, this solid sophomore album isn't really such a "drastic" turn. But you just might agree with the second half of her title. --Alanna Nash