Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Broken English (1979)

"Why D'ya Do It" I happened on Marianne Faithfull's big comeback bid when it was first released, during a Christmas season—one decade ending, another beginning—and was almost immediately knocked back by it, as much as anything by the bracing, foul-mouthed six-minute ragegasm of sexual jealousy that closes the thing, "Why D'ya Do It." Which was as intended, no doubt—obviously, we'd come a long way baby from the breathy dainties of 1964's "As Tears Go By," 15 years and a painful world of experience. How did we get here from there? "Drugs" is the simple answer, but the second half of Faithfull's career has clarified the finer points, as she cleaned up and traveled deeper into the Brechtian backwaters of European jazz-inflected artsong, with varying degrees of success (I don't think she ever touched Dagmar Krause, as one point of comparison). But Faithfull never did anything like this again, and probably no one could. The disco/new wave sheen on every track, it turns out, was an ideal strategy for the dissonant, minor-key tenor of the music, the croaking vocals, and the various lyrical concerns: terrorism, political oppression, domestic abuse, bitter pathos, loss, emptiness, suicide. Like that. At first, the cover of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" seems like the canny statement of purpose here. But then it's followed by "Why D'ya Do It," and silence.

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