Fifty-four years into her career, her circle of friends increasingly shaking off their mortal coils and her body wracked with debilitating arthritis, you can see how easy it would be to regard ‘Negative Capability’, Marianne Faithfull’s 21 st LP, as her late-career Johnny Cash swansong.
Songs like ‘As Tears Go By’, wherein Faithfull’s cracked voice is intertwined with the album’s co-producer and long-serving Bad Seed Warren Ellis’ distinctive, stirring violin, have a towering sense of finality, a maudlin atmosphere that can reduce the most immovable individual to uncontrollable weeping (guilty as charged, and while travelling on public transport too).
To begin writing Faithfull off with this album would, however, be a gross insult. These songs may be scorched with an unavoidable yearning quality, but they find her standing at a new creative peak: ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’, co-written with Nick Cave, might rank among the best songs either have written, while ‘Born To Live’, her piano-led paean to departed lifelong friend Anita Pallenberg, speaks of our corporeal impermanence with a calm but unswervingly frank honesty.
‘They Come At Night’, written with Mark Lanegan in response to the Bataclan attacks is just as terrifying, layers of synths, angry blues guitar and washes of feedback lending Faithfull͛s vocal a bleak and nightmarish poignancy.
Words: Mat Smith
Dig This? Dig Deeper! Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, Patti Smith
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