- 15 Nov 18
Broken English Heart
How should the artist face old age and infirmity? Picasso saw fear and death in the mirror in June 1972. Yeats fought against it utilising artistic joy as his weapon, “soul clap hands and sing”. Rock n’ roll, an art form that values youth more than any other, has, for the most part, avoided the subject. The notable exceptions include Dylan’s last masterpiece (so far) Time Out Of Mind, Leonard Cohen’s brilliant bow out You Want It Darker, and Bowie’s Blackstar. This late statement from Marianne Faithfull is fit to stand beside them.
Old friends are gone, painful arthritis has taken hold, and loneliness is her lot. As she admits during the closing ‘No Moon In Paris’, “What can I do but pretend to be brave, to be strong when I’m not. There’s no moon in Paris tonight, it’s lonely, that’s all I’ve got”
The instrumentation is suitably sparse, and collaborators include Ed Harcourt, Warren Ellis’ beautiful viola and violin, and Nick Cave who co-writes and sings the album’s centrepiece, ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’, a song that shares DNA with Cave highpoint The Boatman’s Call and borrows from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But it is Faithfull's unique voice and interpretive skills that carry this affair, she has become the chanteuse she was always meant to be. She can now inhabit the lyrics of ‘As Tears Go By’ and Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ in a manner that must have been beyond her as a younger woman, and when she closes ‘Witches’ Song’ with “remember, death is far away, and life is sweet…” it’s sung through a grimace.
‘They Come At Night’ speaks of terror in Paris, and ‘Born To Live’ is for the late Anita Pallenberg, but this is an album about Faithfull – “I know I’m not young and I’m damaged, but I’m still pretty, kind and funny”. A heart-breaking and heartbroken record, and the best thing she’s ever done.