Music

Marianne Faithfull: Kissin' Time

Adrien Begrand

Marianne Faithfull

Kissin' Time

Label: Virgin
US Release Date: 2002-08-13
UK Release Date: 2002-03-04
Amazon
iTunes

"I am a muse, not a mistress, not a whore," sings Marianne Faithfull on her new album Kissin' Time. Strong, smart words, and sung with world-weary, yet biting candor; after all, if anyone deserves to sing such a line, it's her. Discovered by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in 1964, the then 17-year-old Faithfull experienced instant success with her soft-voiced, folk rock rendition of "As Tears Go By", which was also the very first song ever written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (story has it that Oldham locked the pair in a room and told them not to come out until they had a song for that pretty girl). Faithfull went on to have a rather ordinary career as a late '60s chanteuse, and with the exception of her chilling 1969 version of the Stones' "Sister Morphine" (a song she co-wrote with Jagger and Richards), she didn't put out any material of the timeless quality.

She still was in the media spotlight, though, but was primarily portrayed by the media as merely a courtesan to Jagger, and an ultra-chic symbol of Swinging London, and was at the center of one of the biggest media circuses in 1967, when Keith Richards' house was raided by police (apparently, Faithfull was wearing nothing but a fur rug when the cops charged in). After her 1968 miscarriage, drugs began to play a bigger and bigger part in her life, and as the '70s rolled around, Faithfull all but disappeared from the public eye. When she emerged in 1979 with her stunning comeback album Broken English, the change in both her voice and her songwriting was astounding. Gone was the flat, wispy schoolgirl singing; in its place was a husky, cracked, Gauloise-cool voice, one that spat out some of the most personal, angrily candid lyrics since Patti Smith, best exemplified on the brilliant "Why'd Ya Do It?" ("I had my balls and my brains put into a vice/And twisted around for a whole fucking week").

After the critical success of Broken English, Faithfull went on to various singing and acting projects over the years; most notably in the '90s, in inspired turn as God on the television series Absolutely Fabulous, and a surprisingly good guest appearance on Metallica's 1997 single, "The Memory Remains" that had metalheads going, "Who's the old lady?" 1999's Vagabond Ways was another bit of a comeback album, and while good, it seemed like not much more than a "She's back-and better than ever!" epilogue to her Behind the Music episode from the same year. This time, though, she's ready to build on the critical success of that album.

Kissin' Time follows the Santana formula of Boomer artists making a commercial comeback with the help of younger songwriters. However, instead of turing to safe, bland, corporate rock artists like Rob Thomas for help (like Santana), or enlisting the help of hopelessly retro hacks like Lenny Kravitz (see Mick Jagger), Faithfull has done a really smart thing in pairing up with some of the better younger artists in music today, in the form of Beck, Billy Corgan, Pulp, and Blur. The result is an album rich in variety, good pop sense, and the unmistakable cool of someone like Faithfull.

The only downer on Kissin' Time is a brief one, and is during the first song, "Sex with Strangers". Lyrically, it's very strong, as Faithfull sings of desperate people looking for some kind of excitement ("You thought you'd try a little danger / And now you have betrayed yourself"), in a Serge Gainsbourg (or Marlene Dietrich) inspired spoken voice. Musically, though, it's all Beck's fault. Kooky Blues Beck is great, and I even tolerate Retro Funky Beck, but when Mr. Hanson is wearing his techno hat, he's utterly awful (remember that crappy remix he did of Air's "Sexy Boy"?), and he does a butcher job on Faithfull's song, with robotic synth bloops and bleeps and 1980s drum machine.

Beck helps out on two other songs, and it's on these where his talents mesh the best with Faithfull's. The lovely "Like Being Born" is a mellow, acoustic song that sounds more like Beck's Mutations album. Backed up by Beck and the unmistakable keyboards of the Jon Brion, Faithfull sings a gently melodic song about her parents: "My father promised me roses / My mother promised me storms". Beck adds a slight bluesy twang to the moody "Nobody's Fault", a beautiful six and a half minute ballad that features some arresting imagery in Faithfull's lyrics ("When the world is full of nails, darkened jails and garbage pails / And their tongues are full of heartless tales that drain on you").

If Beck provides the brooding atmosphere, Billy Corgan supplies the pop. "I'm on Fire" is all-out electropop, with layers of ethereal synth, a languid drum beat, and entrancing backing vocals, as Faithfull sings unabashedly rose-colored verses ("I only had to find the key / Surely love would come to me / You'd look into my glittering eyes / And everything would be all right"). Faithfull's voice is in stellar form on "Wherever I Go", the best bet for a successful single off the album. Marianne displays less of a croak, in favor of a more innocent-sounding, yet still smoky, croon, as Corgan backs her up with more lush music. And only someone as cool as Marianne Faithfull could pull off an unironic cover of Herman's Hermits' "I'm Into Something Good" and make it sound dignified and stately, yet still hopelessly optimistic. Corgan's talents as a producer shine through again on this track; judging by the brilliant evidence on Kissin' Time, Corgan should be doing more producing. His work on the three tracks is masterful.

It's on the two tracks done in collaboration with the British stalwarts where Kissin' Time best displays its brilliance. Faithfull's partnership with Blur yields the fascinating title track. With Damon Albarn's bluesy guitar riff and backing vocals, Graham Coxon's trademark flourishes, Alex James's loping bass, and Dave Rowntree's suitably understated drumming, "Kissin' Time" combines Faithfull's soulful vocals with what's, essentially, the best Blur song in years. Even better, though, is the spectacular "Sliding Through Life on Charm", written by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. Arguably the best lyricist in rock music today, Cocker, inspired by Faithfull's own autobiography, has written a song that perfectly sums up Faithfull's amazing life in less than four minutes. There's the trademark candor that can be expected from the likes of Faithfull and Cocker ("Suburban shits who want some class / All queue up to kiss my ass"), but the best moment in the song, and on the entire album, is the last verse, spoken by Faithful: "I wonder why the schools don't teach anything useful nowadays, like how to fall from grace, and slide with elegance from a pedestal I never asked to be on in the first place". Not only is the song impeccably performed by Faithfull and Pulp, but it's also one of the best songs of the year, and one of the best songs Jarvis Cocker has ever written.

Rounding off the album is the quick, guitar-driven pop of "Love and Money", the techno stylings of the ironically-titled "The Pleasure Song", and "Song for Nico", produced by ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart, on which Faithfull sings about the former Velvet Underground chanteuse who led a parallel life to Faithfull's, but experienced much more bad luck. Faithfull's lyrics show sympathy for the late icon, as if understanding, "There, but for the grace of God . . ."

Aside from one miniscule distraction, Kissin' Time delivers, and is a rousing success for Faithfull. On the record she further enhances her image as a grand, elder stateswoman of pop music. It's not all the drugs she did or the famous people she bedded that makes her so cool, it's the fact that she's emerged from many difficult years with her head held high, and a voice (and what an entrancing voice it is) that demands to be heard. Marianne Faithfull may have gracefully slid down that unwanted pedestal she was on, but now, she deserves to be atop another one, one befitting a truly original female artist, one whose music is more vital than it's ever been.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.