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Faithfull Brings PJ, Cave

P.J. Harvey, Nick Cave guest on new record

Marianne Faithfull will release Before the Poison in

January. As with 2002’s electronica-influenced Kissin’ Time

— a star-studded affair with help from Beck and Billy Corgan —

the veteran chanteuse and London scenester has enlisted a cadre of

guest writers and producers, including P.J. Harvey, Nick Cave,

Damon Albarn and Jon Brion.

“I’m very much a child of my time,”

Faithfull, now 57, says about the relationship to her relatively

younger collaborators. “They know what they want, and they do it.

I’m afraid. I’m a bit more roundabout, but I’m getting better.”

Harvey produced five of the album’s tracks, including the

simmering rocker and album opener “The Mystery of Love” and the

haunting “No Child of Mine,” which finds Faithfull speaking and

then singing the lyrics in her sandpapery voice. The song shifts

in its final moment, from a ghostly ballad to a foot-stomping

folksy romp, complete with handclaps and staccato guitar

strumming. Harvey, who sings backup, included the one-minute

fragment on her most recent album Uh Huh Her. “I love those

connections,” Faithfull says with enthusiasm.

“I wanted to hear

Marianne singing in a way I hadn’t before,” Harvey says. “So I

wrote pieces that would require her to sing a lot higher than she

would naturally, and require her to really belt out with her

voice.

“She has incredible creativity, but it’s very unordered,”

Harvey adds with a laugh. “I’m the opposite — I’m almost too

ordered — so we balanced each other very well, and she freed me

up.”

Cave contributed three disparate tracks, including “Crazy

Love,” with its decadent string-arrangement, and the rollicking,

rambunctious “Desperanto,” which finds Faithfull almost rapping

over a propulsive rock song. “When Marianne asked me to write the

music, the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘I’m going

to write music for her that will allow her voice to breathe,'”

Cave says. “And she’s a singer . . . She’s really good. She knew

exactly when it was right and when it was wrong. She was in total

mastery of things.”

While she may have earned a reputation as an

autobiographical writer — both in her lyrics and her 2000 memoir,

Faithfull — Faithfull says this record focuses on the

world’s political and social climate. “Some of it is about in me,

but most of it is about out there,” she explains. “‘Before the

Poison’ is me imagining what it would be like to be in a poisonous

gas attack . . . I took it very literally. The working title was

beautiful: it was The Mystery of Love. But then in the end

I decided it wasn’t strong enough . . . A Marianne Faithfull

record has got to say something.”

Faithfull has kept herself

busy playing the devil in The Black Rider, a play directed

by Robert Wilson and written by William S. Burroughs, with music

by Tom Waits. But she says that after her acting stint (the play

goes to Sydney in January), she will take a band on the road, with

plans for a North American tour in March. But because of her

storied past, it’s difficult for Faithfull to get a visa to tour.

“I’m really up there on the level of wickedness with, like, a Nazi

or a pedophile!” she quips.

Despite weighing heavily on her

album, Faithfull says the political climate has not dampened her

spirits. “I’m very calm and full of real well-being,” she

announces, laughing, “which is good because I’ve got a lot of work

to do.”

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