Poet. Playwright. Performance artist. It’s difficult to describe succinctly what it is Kate Tempest does. John Cooper-Clarke, Mike Skinner, Saul Williams? It’s equally problematic to find a comparable reference for her work. Recognising the quality of her latest album Let Them Eat Chaos isn’t nearly as taxing.
This record follows the dark narrative of a disparate group of seven people, each one alone in the harsh reality of modern day London. Each from a different walk of life but all awake, wondering, worried about the significant insignificancies of life. Tempest creates a series of vignettes with 4.18am, the insomniacs’ reference point as the refrain ‘Is anybody else awake…?’ rings out.
Each character sketched in such detail their hopelessness hip-hops from the bleak beat backdrop the album hangs on. Tempest’s delivery style operates along a line ranging from the straight forward spoken word that opens the album to the head bop inducing rapping of Dizzee Rascal proportions on ‘Whoops’ and ‘Ketamine for Breakfast’.
‘Grubby’ borrows the chorus from Sister Sledge’s ‘Thinking of You’ injecting it with a hollowness that makes it barely recognisable at first listen. The album’s electronic backing tracks are kept simple and often repetitive to the point of being hypnotic, honourably taking a backseat to the intricacies of the narrative.
Let Them Eat Chaos is a eulogy for London, its people and its past. It touches on bigger issues like consumerism and the financial disparity that crushes its characters only to highlight how removed these concepts are from the nitty-gritty of life in the city. England’s green fields don’t exist in this world where blocks of flats are graded by the number of cat flaps that perforate their doors.
Vice is a major factor on Let Them Eat Chaos, drinking, drugs and sex permeate the record. Rents and water levels rise as inhibitions fall away. ‘Europe is Lost’ takes us on a journey of excess as the city tries to ‘dance off the drudgery’ in the embrace of the high street happy hour.
So densely conceptual, it’s hard to look at this record as just another hip-hop album…it’s more like a novel for your ears that makes you bop your head intermittently. Tempest is challenging the listener to be a tourist in the London she depicts for 47 minutes, a prying eye upon each and every dirty detail. Your full attention is demanded then held.
Let Them Eat Chaos is a triumph of the audible word.