Home Read Classic Album Review: Ellen Reid | Cinderellen

Classic Album Review: Ellen Reid | Cinderellen

The Crash Test Dummies member is the belle of the ball on her surprising solo set.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Once upon a time there was a woman named Ellen.

Ellen was very smart and talented. She could play piano, accordion and other instruments, and she could sing sweetly. Ellen joined a little band called Crash Test Dummies. They had a singer with a very deep voice. One day, he wrote a silly song. It was called Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm. It surprised everyone — probably even them — by becoming a big hit and making the band (and Ellen) kinda famous.

But do you know what, boys and girls? Fame turned out to be a bitch. The band wrote plenty of other good songs, but never had another hit like that first one. Eventually, they weren’t really that famous anymore and the band sorta drifted apart. Some of them moved to England or New York or L.A. The singer with the deep voice started acting very strange, cursing on stage and hanging around with lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia (don’t ask, boys and girls; just don’t ask). Aside from the odd nostalgic tour, it looked like Ellen’s band was kaput. What was she going to do now?

Well, Ellen did what all smart people do when they stop getting invited to parties: She decided to throw her own party. So she wrote a dozen songs, invited some new friends over to play them, and recorded her own album. And she called it Cinderellen. ’Cause some of the songs are about fairy tale characters. But also (I think) ’cause she’s the belle of the ball — at least for one night.

But Cinderellen turns out to be kind of a surprise party. Instead of making the sort of album you’d expect — a whole disc full of songs that sound like her old band — Ellen recorded all sorts of different tunes that remind you of all sorts of different people. On the first song, a catchy bit of funky electro-soul called Make You Mine, she sounds like Annie Lennox, belting out a confident vocal in a surprisingly strong voice. On Bullet, she kinda borrows the melody from the chorus of Radiohead’s Creep and sets it against an intriguing backdrop that can only be described as Celtic trip-hop. Send Me Home slinks along to a jazzy, noirish groove that evolves into a shimmering pop chorus. Get Into is the sort of bluesy, ballsy piano-soul groover you might expect from Fiona Apple. And Anybody Will Do is a crunchy chunk of guitar-pop whose swoopy bass line and sing-songy melody split the diff between Liz Phair, Jennifer Trynin and The Breeders. Sure, there are a few songs — like the darkly creamy ballad You’re Early — that sound like they were written for somebody with a very deep voice, but mostly these songs sound like they were written only for Ellen. Surprise!

Ellen’s lyrics are a bit of a surprise, too. Nice girls aren’t supposed to say some of the things she says. But Ellen doesn’t mind being a bad girl — if she can find a bad boy. “Baby baby, my friends all say that you’re perverted / Baby, baby, you know that you’ve got me converted,” she admits on Get Into. Even the fairy-tale lyrics are kind of twisted. Case in point: Anybody Will Do. Its words are more limerick than lyric: “Poor Pinnochio / He watched his nose grow / After he lied to the girl of his dreams / He looked at Giopetto / Said, ‘Where was you head-o! / Why didn’t you put that thing in my jeans?’ ” Surprise!

If there’s one slightly disappointing surprise on Cinderellen, it’s that it has a few too many ballads. After such a strong start — the first handful of songs are all keepers — the last few tracks dissipate the momentum with their dreamy melodies and downtempo vibes. After all, a fairy tale is supposed to have a happy ending — like ‘And they all lived happily ever after!’