The inimitable Marianne Faithful is back with her 21st album “Negative Capacity’ and it is possibly the most emotionally powerful of her 54-year recording career. Facing down arthritis and bolstered by collaborators including Warren Ellis, Nick Cave, Rob Ellis, Ed Harcourt and Mark Lanegan, ‘Negative Capability’ is charged with brutal honesty and autobiographical reflection as she addresses losing old friends, her loneliness living in her adopted city of Paris, and love.
Driven by her supernatural re-interpretative skills, florid lyricism, battle against the pain she lives with, and realised with her stellar group of musicians, ‘Negative Capability’ is Marianne’s unflinchingly honest and relentlessly beautiful late-life masterpiece. The stark emotional heft, exquisitely framed by ornately sensitive musical backdrops can only be likened to the late-life works by Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen.
“It’s the most honest album I’ve ever made,” she says. “I’ve always tried not to reveal myself. There’s nothing like real hardship to give you some depth. I’ve had terrible accidents and I’m really damaged. It’s changed my life forever. I’m in a lot of pain and worked really hard to get strong so I can do my work. The great miracle is I was able to make this beautiful record. I really had no idea how it would turn out. I just jumped in and hoped I would be able to do it. This is all what’s happened to me since my life changed but obviously if I do something I must do it really well.”
The record emphasises her unique place as a force of nature in the beating heart of modern music that started opening up after ‘Sister Morphine’ ignited her muse and was recorded by the Rolling Stones nearly fifty years ago. At that time she had enjoyed her pop career with hits such as ‘Come And Stay With Me’ and ‘This Little Bird’, before becoming the crown princess of the UK counterculture before grasping her artistic reins with the landmark ‘Broken English’ in 1979.
Recorded at La Frette studio on the outskirts of Paris, ‘Negative Capability’ is inexorably overshadowed by grief at losing close friends from the ‘60s such as Anita Pallenberg, Martin Stone and Cream album designer Martin Sharp. It’s produced by both Rob Ellis – the PJ Harvey producer who’s been Marianne’s collaborator for five years -and Warren Ellis from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Warren’s violin blesses songs such as ‘Misunderstanding’ and ‘Born To Live’ – her intensely moving eulogy to departed lifelong friend Anita - with the stark but lustrous autumnal beauty that makes the album.
The first single ‘The Gypsy Fairie Queen’ – inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – was co-written with Nick Cave and features his vocals and piano playing. “It’s a little miracle,” says Marianne. “I asked Nick if he would put music to it and he wrote back saying, ‘I’m so busy.’ I said, ‘I understand, sorry to bother you.’ Then he just wrote back, ‘Thank you so much for understanding; here’s the song.’ It’s just gorgeous.”