Secret Meeting score: 86
by Mark Jackson
Negative Capability is Marianne Faithfull’s 21st studio album and comes a mammoth 54 years after her debut release – the Jagger/Richards penned single As Tears Go By. A track revisited here by Faithfull, who transfers the sum of her last half century into a strained, wiry yet enchanting and aged vocal.
At 71 years of age, Faithfull delivers a wise, weary and at times knowingly humorous reflection on love and life, while also staring down the realities of old age, waning heath and death – “I know I’m not young and I’m damaged, but I’m still pretty, kind of funny” she sings on the Ed Harcourt/Warren Ellis/Rob Mcvey co-write, My Own Particular Way. Similarly, there is an elegant charm that runs throughout the album despite its often-heavy themes of loss and loneliness.
Faithfull beautifully masters a life and career reflection, drawing similarities with Johnny Cash’s Rick Rubin produced American series. Here also, the choice of production and collaboration team is exquisite – Warren Ellis and Rob Ellis constructing a balladry synonymous at times with the laments of usual leads Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. In fact, it is Nick Cave himself who features on perhaps Negative Capabilities’ standout track- the Cave/Faithfull co-write, The Gypsy Faerie Queen. A song that casts a lavish scope and tender expression of loyalty and devotion.
Negative Capability is at times a haunting listen, but one feels that its creation has been a cathartic process for Faithfull to offload her unique lifelong experiences- from teen stardom to heroin addict, and A-list romances to heart aching loneliness – all construed through a late in life meditation. Although at times appearing to be a signing off, or final-foray, there is a warmth and passion to Negative Capability that means it will be an essential listen for new and existing fans for many decades to come.