Review: Shirley Gnome: Decoxification

Brilliant and brash lyrics give the award-winning songwriter a comedic advantage

cabaret review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 12 Aug 2022
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Fest magazine

For her combination of comedy and country, Shirley Gnome could draw comparisons with June Carter Cash – known in her heyday for her propensity towards clowning as much as guitar playing – though with more lurid gags. In the past, the award-winning comic made a name for herself for her x-rated material, with odes to bad sex and porn aplenty. Decoxification sees her return to the Fringe with similarly explicit writing, but with a droll neurotic side. 

Gnome’s songs become a vehicle to explore the negative emotions that we are all barely masking, whether it’s the aftermath from – spoken in a growling horror film creature voice – “the thing”, or relationships that have chipped away at our self-esteem. From the off, a darker mentality threatens to topple our country belle. In her opening cover of Minnie Riperton’s Lovin’ You, that notorious high note veers off into a bloodcurdling scream – a symptom, Gnome tells us, of some things she has been repressing. 

Veering between country, disco, pop and one spot-on Nickelback spoof, Gnome airs some of these buried vexations, whether it’s her hatred of small yappy dogs, dealing with an overbearing male feminist, or unfulfilling sexual encounters. The banter between tunes feels rusty at times, but Gnome’s songwriting makes up for it. Her lyrics are brilliantly brash, and she fits in more than a few jibes at cliches from the genres she chooses to pastiche. Gnome clearly understands the mechanics of a prototypical pop song, which she turns to her comic advantage.