More than half a century has passed since Marianne Faithfull was pop music’s it girl, singing the Rolling Stones’ first original composition, “As Tears Go By,” in her light soprano. By the late Seventies, her voice deepened and she started singing anti-pop music: dusky odes to life’s dark side with musical references to everything from punk to jazz to Kurt Weill. She’s been on a roll over the past decade, since teaming with PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and others for 2005’s brilliant Before the Poison album, which was a collection of moving, morose tunes that fit her voice perfectly.
She also worked with Cave again for a track on her just-released, new album (and 21st overall), Negative Capability, and ironically it shows off more of her capability for positivity. Although there’s still a certain sadness to “The Gypsy Faerie Queen” (between Nick Cave and Marianne Faithfull, that’s inevitable), it retells Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the perspective of Puck, becoming a song of devotion as she sings of following the titular nymph into “the twilight in-between.” It’s a sweet fantasy, and with Cave singing along and his bandmate, Bad Seeds violinist Warren Ellis, adding some gravity to the melody, it becomes an ornate portrait of that feeling of loyalty. When compared with the song after it on the LP – a weighty redo of “As Tears Go By” – its lightness sounds even more profound.