Mary Chapin Carpenter: Time* Sex* Love*

Andrew Ellis

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Time* Sex* Love*

Label: Sony
US Release Date: 2001-05-29

Mary Chapin Carpenter remains one of the most authoritative and genuine female singer songwriters around, precisely because she fits the current Nashville vogue for manufactured country 'product' with refreshing unease.

She can always be relied upon to produce intelligent, well-written albums about love, life and everything in between. Not the contrived plastic pop of teenagers barely out of diapers, but the assured, reflective voice of a performer who often lives her life through her songs and lives her songs through her life.

It's been four years since her last batch of such gems, and although A Place in the World was received poorly in some quarters (unjustly, I believe), Time* Sex* Love* is nothing short of an inspired follow-up. Full of lyrically rich and musically rewarding songs as the enrapturing "Slave to the Beauty" or the shivery "King of Love", this is a mature album that just improves with every listen, and demands your utmost attention from start to finish.

Clocking in at a lengthy 70 minutes, there are 15 songs in total, but the standard -- or interest -- hardly wavers. The first single, "Simple Life", is a clever look at the stresses of modern life, but ironically enough, isn't the tune that gravitates most towards radio playlists. That song is opener "Whenever You're Ready", which jauntily bounces along with the kind of unashamed pop "na na nas" not normally associated with Carpenter. More familiar is the rootsy, soaring country-rock of "This Is Me Leaving You" or "In the Name of Love", as well as standout rocker "The Long Way Home", on which Duke Levine's guitar licks never sounded so good.

Carpenter is arguably even more effective when the understated piano of Jon Carroll or expressive percussion of Dave Mattacks accompanies her acoustic guitar and wonderfully graceful voice. The gentle philosophy of "Late for Your life", the breathless beauty of "Someone Else's Prayer", or the enchanting force of "The Dreaming Road" all stand as prime examples of such musical harmony.

However, it's the astounding lyrical soul-searching of "Alone But Not Lonely" that is the defining moment of this disc, and like the heartfelt "Swept Away" proves that with every new album Carpenter becomes more open-hearted. Rarely has she sounded so compelling, and with a back catalogue that includes the likes of Stones in the Road, that's saying something.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.