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Before The Poison
Here’s the pitch. Take one ’60s pin-up turned crawler from the ’70s wreckage turned Weimar Republican and furnish her with a body of songs drawn from co-writes with and original compositions by PJ Harvey and Nick Cave.
Olaf Tyaransen, 08 Oct 2004
Here’s the pitch. Take one ’60s pin-up turned crawler from the ’70s wreckage turned Weimar Republican and furnish her with a body of songs drawn from co-writes with and original compositions by PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, plus one each from Damon Albarn and Jon Brion. On paper it sounds foolproof.
But wait, is that the ghost of Ute Lemper’s immaculately conceptualised but over-egged Punishing Kiss I hear tapping at the window?
Well, yes, but this time it’s different. The crucial point here is, instead of hiring a bunch of session players attempting spruced up approximations of the authors’ most conspicuous characteristics, Faithfull has gotten Harvey and Cave involved in the performance and production processes.
So you can imagine the shock of hearing Faithfull’s racked and ruined but romantic croak placed next to PJ’s ugly blues redux riffs and the throw-you-a-curve drumming of Rob Ellis on tunes like ‘My Friends Have’ and ‘In The Factory’. At first it seems like the music is roughing up a grand dame of British pop, until she sings, and you realise her voice is twice as harrowed as any of the sounds, and that several lifetimes of interpreting the punk in Brecht have made her phrasing hard as nails (see the majestic six-minute rendition of ‘No Child Of Mine’, of which we only heard but a snippet on Uh Huh Her).
Faithfull of course shares many abiding interests with Nick Cave – a comprehensive knowledge of the geography of the gutter and the stars, plus an abiding interest in the point where European cabaret and blues avant garde overlap.
‘Crazy Love’ and ‘There Is A Ghost’ are stately and spare and executed just-so by the Bad Seeds skeleton crew of Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn P Casey. This much is well within their remit, but there’s also a rather barmy ’70s blaxploitation spoken word blow-out entitled ‘Desperanto’ whose conceptual origins are anyone’s guess, although one suspects co-producer Hal Willner had a hand in the madness.
Of the remainder, the Albarn co-write ‘Last Song’ is Marianne doing baroque melancholic pop not unlike Nico circa Chelsea Girl while the closing Brion-orchestrated ‘City Of Quartz’ is a bewitched music box.
Here’s a bunch of orphan songs you won’t hear played on the radio. Take them home and clutch them to your bosom.