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Review: Kate Tempest - 'Let Them Eat Chaos'

Updated on October 17, 2016

London poet, playwright and spoken word artist Kate Tempest’s latest release, ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ has the 30-year-old fearlessly dissecting the West.

Lamenting the extent to which society is supposedly desensitised by the superficial elements of daily life, and conditioned, encouraged or forced to ignore the atrocities happening in the wider world, Tempest effortlessly switches between rap and spoken word in order to communicate her opinions.

‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ refuses to turn away from ground-level, big city realities. The tracklisting is rammed with unprocessed beats and pointed bars, designed to make listeners stop in the their tracks and think.

The LP may very well be labelled a downer and overly-focused on the negative - and it’s true, ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ is not particularly enjoyable or big on sunny fun - it offers zero escapism.

However, Tempest’s overriding agenda genuinely seems to be getting society to refocus, and because the wordsmith does so with total conviction, she impacts immediately.

Throughout the album’s runtime, Tempest puts all her creative abilities to use and essentially functions as its narrator. She takes listeners on a tour of a fictional London neighbourhood and into the lives of the only residents on the block awake at 4.18am.

Photography: David Levene
Photography: David Levene
Photography: Simon Butler
Photography: Simon Butler

Many listeners will surely see themselves, their motivations and their own feelings within these characters and their intricately depicted mind-sets. In that way, the record has the potential to become personal very quickly to a lot of people - and that’s its power.

Putting aside the record’s subversive sense of protest, the fact that Tempest’s rap lyrics are not self-invested and only really serve to reflect listeners back at themselves is already extra-ordinary, in terms of traditional rap.

Tempest comfortably takes the back seat for these after-dark personalities on tracks like ‘We Die’ and the more immediate ‘Don’t Fall In’, and as she delves further into the mundane, ’Let Them Eat Chaos’ feels more important.

The album’s messages aren’t always packaged appropriately for the people who should probably hear them the most, that being said, ‘Grubby’ utilises a more familiar hook-verse-hook song format. The mercilessly bassy tune centres around Pious, whose sexual escapades we soon find out make the character feel worthless inside.

‘Pictures On A Screen’ hones in on a resident called Bradley who’s moved from Manchester in the north down to London. Although the young man has done good for himself, Tempest spends a few minutes describing this guy’s struggle with an explicable sense of meaninglessness over a subdued, appropriately reflective instrumental.

After a spoken word interlude lays the ground work for a resident named Pete, the wonky beat-work of ‘Whoops’ finally drops and Tempest begins fleshing out this person's hyper, carefree, easy-come-easy-go personality.

Photography: John Spinks
Photography: John Spinks

‘Europe Is Lost’ overflows with weighty rap bars on subjects like corporate greed, terrorism, global warming, oil spills, immigration, police brutality and gang violence.

Gathering the project’s characters together and slicing through their shared sense of separateness, ’Breaks’ is a spoken word piece that brings the foreboding storm mentioned several times throughout the record to a head.

Follow-up album finale ‘Tunnel Vision’ starkly describes an apocalyptic London, yet the track’s bleak backdrop comes second to Tempest witnessing a society being forced to look at the disorder that surrounds them as their sky breaks.

Tempest stirringly uses the cut to bemoan a pacified population, “staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die”, she mutters. “The myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost and pitiful…I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more” she adds passionately.

Tempest gives singing a go on ‘Perfect Coffee’ - sort of. Detailing the plight of a Londoner called Zoe, who is being forced from of the area due to its rising rents, Tempest delivers standout commentary on big city gentrification. “Whose city is this? It doesn’t want me any more” she spits over the track’s paced electro beat-work.

Tempest’s acute observations of Zoe’s mundane life - broken showers, kitchen mould and a greedy landlord, for example - all slowly but surely add to the track’s grinding atmosphere and admirable punch.

Verdict: ********8.5/10

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