Over the course of a career lasting twenty years already (and she’s still in her mid thirties), Eliza Carthy hasn’t been afraid to play fast and loose with the traditional music that first introduced her to the world as a teenager. Nineteen albums in various guises later (as well as guest appearances with the likes of Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and Wilco), Neptune shows no sign of that desire to push musical boundaries abating, certainly not if the dizzying first ten minutes are anything to go by. ‘Blood On My Boots’ and ‘War’ manage to cram in a selection of camp show tunes, sixties pop, Beach Boys harmonies, East European gypsy punk and a nod to her father Martin’s Brass Monkey. It’s all quite brilliant but you do fear that if the album was to continue at this pace it might all get a bit wearing.
Thankfully, Neptune does settle down somewhat – opting instead to skip genres on a song by song basis rather than trying to tackle them all at once. The approach allows Carthy herself to shine, her voice a lot richer and more ragged around the edges than we remember but still able to handle ballads such as ‘A Letter’ and ‘T @ 5’, both torch songs of the highest standard. ‘Romeo’ is a soul / folk crossover that Billy Bragg would be proud of, as he would of the feisty nature of ‘Car Park’. Less successful is the ska tinged ‘Monkey’ and if the record does tend to descend back into a slightly too hectic nature at the end, there is still much to admire here. If nothing else, Neptune proves that Eliza Carthy is a jack of many trades, and a mistress of quite a few of them.