by Sophie B Hawkins, pop/alternative (1999)
Sony/Columbia, ASIN B00000JH0B

It's a long wait for Sophie's follow-up to her 1995 sophomore album Whaler, and no, it's not exactly that good, much to my disappointment. In this third outing, Sophie seems to have lost her fire. How disappointing!

Indeed, the whole album, while the lyrics are openly sexual at times, lack the sensuality that characterizes the songstress' previous music. There is no earthy sensuality like Don't Stop Swaying and We Are One Body, not even the bittersweet love affair in her previous gems like I Need Nothing Else. And while tunes like No Connection come close, many songs on Timbre don't even have the panache of bouncy, poppy stuff like Let Me Love You Up.

So what's left? I love Strange Thing, a song of reflective contemplation of one's inner peace and (lack of) direction, and No Connection is lovely. And the soothing ballad Lose Your Way flies, although it pales in the greatness that is As I Lay Me Down from Whaler. My Best Friend is a pale imitation of Sophie's bouncier songs from her past like Mysteries We Understand.

It is only on two tracks, The Darkest Childe and Help Me Breathe that Sophie's latent fire burns through. The former is a vulgar but effective monologue of corruption of innocence with a wailing, haunting chorus. And in Help Me Breathe, Sophie conveys a sense of claustrophobia so vividly that I find myself holding my breath as her sultry voice goes Help me.

Her sultry voice is her greatest weapon, but Sophie's star also shines when she writes openly about her favorite topics: sex and love. This time, her lyrics are openly lesbian. No bisexual ambiguity that is the lyrics in Whaler for you, oh no. On 32 Lines, she goes I want your breasts across my back. That's the mildest I can quote: check out the explicit oral sex references in The Darkest Childe and French kiss in Your Tongue Like The Sun In My Mouth - you can tell she's asking Jane, not Joe, to give her the bejeepers.

Indeed, while she is openly more flagrant with her sexuality, it is unfortunate that the music is pretty average. Most tracks I have heard before in Whaler and Tongues And Tails, and Sophie isn't creating anything new here.

I still think Timbre is better than many bubblegum music out there, but compared to her own works, Timbre isn't great. A pity. Sophie says she's moving to a new recording company that gives her greater freedom with her music and voice. Here's hoping she will regain her fire and thrill me with her music again.

Rating: 82

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