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Album Cover Beth Orton - Central Reservation (Heavenly)

Beth Orton has had a troubled life, and Central Reservation is her attempt to share the burden. Unlike 1996's comparatively upbeat "Trailer Park", "Central Reservation" is as welcome as a Sunday morning visit from the Jesus Army. Woe is me, Beth appears to say, and indeed before you know it, woe is you too.

While Orton, unlike many of the would-be screwed up pop-stars that try the same trick, has at least had a genuinely awful run of bad luck so far with parents dying, going blind and having an untreatable recurrent stomach illness, there is little pleasure to be had from joining her. Beyond the relatively upbeat 'Stolen Car' every strummed melody seems to criss-cross the tracks like scars while Orton's exhausted-but-being-brave vocal sends you in search of the medicine cabinet.

This isn't to say that Central Reservation doesn't have some remarkable moments, under the varying influences of Ben Harper, and fellow sufferer Ben Watt the tracks occasionally surface from the gloom. But, if you can get through the whole thing in one listen without screaming: "Cheer up you miserable bitch" then you've probably lost the will to live already.

by Robert Lowe.