Ever since the release of Cigarette Duet in 2011 – the track that racked up nearly 20 million YouTube hits – Princess Chelsea (a.k.a. Chelsea Nickel) has drawn comparisons with everyone from France Gall to Tori Amos, a reflection more on the commendable acuity and intelligence of her strange, story like observations, rather than her musical parity. Those comparisons may diminish with the release of The Great Cybernetic Depression, which builds on her debut Lil Golden Book, mining the otherworldly morality tales, but adding further textures – mostly the rattling undercarriage of synthesizers that drive the songs along and offer dramatic punctuation to the sombre vocals.
The Great Cybernetic Depression dissects the repercussions of success and how hard it is to grow in the music industry – and the album certainly refuses to hide the bitter consequences behind unwarranted politesse.
“There’s no church on Sunday,” rings out Nickel on the most chamber pop track on the album (No Church On Sunday – go figure) in a closing passage of Biblical proportion, which stands out amongst the wave-like insistence of songs segueing smoothly on the back of sparse electronics, proving its successive melancholy that is the driving force.
We Are Very Happy ruminates on desire, discussing the trials and tribulations of being in love and – suggesting complicity in a difficult relationship: “I will never really know if you really loved her, but I can’t pretend that nothing ever happened.” Romance – it’s duly noted – is a complicated dance of love and sorrow, in which nothing seems to be resolved. Or at least that’s what The Great Cybernetic Depression would have us believe.
We Were Meant 2 B overdubs further textures – mostly in the form of a guitar solo, but with hints of classical piano, along with some lovely delay. Notably the textures outweigh the lyrics here with drones overpowering the narrative of a romance abroad.
Winston Crying On The Bathroom Floor – which samples her dog – could be a case of Chelsea nodding to the Eels’ Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor – and it is a beautiful epistle for We Are Strangers where Jonathan Bree (of The Brunett’s) guests in slow, Ian Curtis esque deliveries that have more than a little sense of eerie foreboding.
The Great Cybernetic Depression is not designed to be an all-out strange affair, rather it’s meant to intimate a creepy sense of otherworldness and wow, does it deliver it. A cathartic – if sometimes strange walk – through the annals of Nickel’s mind on this more focused follow up. Excellent.