[l1]I[/l1]f the only track you’ve heard from Dido’s “No Angel” is the ubiquitous “Thankyou” (spelt just like that) it would be easy to assume that this is just another fluffy collection of love songs.
Nothing could be further from the truth.Tip to Those Who Suspect Their Relationship May be in Trouble:
If your significant other is playing “No Angel” often, singing along with vigor, this may not be a good sign.
The bulk of “No Angel” is, instead, a trove of odes to the bitterness and anguish of love lost; lost through attrition, lost through apathy, lost through anger, lost through rivalry and conflict. While there is, in fact, more than one love song on the album, that group is the minority.
Dido was christened Florian Cloud De Bounevialle Armstrong, and nicknamed after a mythological woman whose loss of two loves drove her to suicide. The simpler nickname is apropos of the album’s lyrical content.
Unconventional and interesting percussion seems to play a large part in the ambience of many of the tracks. A largely acoustic feel pervades the arrangements, with piano, guitar, and the occasional flute or organ to add highlights and flavor.
- Here With Me—Despite the heavy drums, it’s the quiet piano at the beginning which sets the tone for the album’s opener. A ‘widow’s walk’ song; waiting for a lover who will never return.
I can't hide I won't go I won't sleep I can't breathe Until you're resting here with me I won't leave I can't hide I cannot be Until you're resting here with me
- Hunter—The message is no secret:
I want to be a hunter again want to see the world alone again to take a chance on life again so let me go.
For some reason, this is the melody that comes to my head when I’m humming the album; complex, but catchy; rising and falling like the roller coaster ride of some relationships.
- Don’t Think of Me—Acrimony set to music. The music is, to be honest, forgettable; the lyrics are not. Essentially, “I hope you’re happy with your new lover; your best friend sure seems to be . . . ” It’s not easy to avoid the demon of vindictiveness.
- My Lover’s Gone—One of those glorious pairings of deeply moving poetry and emotionally inspiring music. At first, slow and quiet; strings, echoey harmonies; then, some very Celtic drumming in two rhythyms simultaneously, but still, the slow and quiet feeling.
My lover's gone I know that kiss will be my last No more his song The tune upon his lips has passed I sing alone
Soulsick, embracing the wrenching pain of despair.
- All You Want—”I like to watch you sleep at night, to hear you breath by my side.” The tender lyrics are a deception. You could have had it all, right here with me, but if you think she’s what you want, I hope you find it there with her. Delicate verses alternate with a powerful, angry chorus. Although the final verse offers best wishes for their happiness, it sounds sarcastic, not sincere.
- Thankyou—The primary exception to the compilation’s dark and brooding feel, the album’s biggest hit is a warm tribute to the way true love takes the sting out of life’s little aggravations.
- Honestly OK—But she’s not; she’s in the depths of despair, in so much pain—”I’m so lonely I don’t even want to be with myself anymore.” Ambient sounds fill the background, but the vocals lay, cold and bare, against insistent, almost relentless drumming. “I just want to feel safe in my own skin.” I know the feeling.
- Slide—A counterpoint to “Honestly OK”, an attempt to believe that the pain will pass; there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s around a corner.
It's all right to make mistakes, you're only human Inside, everybody's hiding something
- Isobel—Lyrically, about the disappearance of a friend who could no longer face the pain of life. “Oh Isobel, I hope you’re well, and what you’ve done is right . . . ” A slow march, almost a dirge.
- I’m No Angel—A plea for forgiveness; an admission of her imperfection, as if admission were required; an acknowledgment of her own part in the distance between them, but without apology.
- My Life—Same message as the title track, but even slower and more anguished.
- Take My Hand—One of the exceptions to the acoustic feel of the album, it’s also unique in its percussion. A fast beat and undisguised electronic drums and cymbals give the album’s final cut an almost disco feel; not as driving, not as harsh, but certainly wanting to be danceable. The ever-present piano and acoustic guitar stand out starkly against the digital backdrop of the rhythym section. The words are strangely ambiguous. At the same time, a plea for trust and a warning of unfaithfulness:
Take my hand, and if I'm lying to you I'll always be alone If I'm lying to you Take your time, if I'm lying to you I know you'll find that you believe me
While I don’t mind simple lyrics if the accompanying music is fun enough, I prefer depth and insight. “No Angel” has them in spades.