Marianne Faithfull, Negative Capability
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Marianne Faithfull Negative Capability BMG

There’s a certain breed of musical icon that can transfer the sum of their lived experiences onto their recordings. Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Patti Smith – you can hear the accumulated years of strife and reflection in their voices, eeking out lyrics one word at a time.

Marianne Faithfull fits squarely into his pantheon of legends. On her 21st solo album Negative Capability, her husky voice grazes atop a pruned collection of 10 songs, some new, some revisited, but all bearing her trademark haunting aura. The Gypsy Fairy Queen, written with Nick Cave, has both singers harmonising like lovelorn ghosts. On a melancholy reimagining of Faithfull’s 1964 classic As Tears Go by, Faithfull stares down her past in the rearview mirror, watching it fade in the distance.

But she’s not done yet. Negative Capability deals with some heavy themes – Faithfull’s grief at losing lifelong friends, her deteriorating health and the reality of getting old. But it’s the glimmers of hope that make the record so resolutely beautiful, as she states on slow burner In My Own Particular Way: “I know I’m not young and I’m damaged/ But I’m still pretty, kind and funny.” It’s not a resignation, but it’s not a victory lap, either. Faithfull is just gracefully strutting forwards, to the beat of her own drum.