Anita Lane is looking good. She’s also sounding pretty good on Sex O’Clock, a collection of songs developed with long-time collaborator and multi-talented musician, Bad Seed Mick Harvey. As the title suggests they all concern sex in one guise or another, and while some are smooth and sensual others chill the heart. Actually with a couple of exceptions most of the lyrics are pretty bleak, or at best bitter-sweet – the words of a woman who knows what it’s like to love the wrong men and suffer the consequences.
Gil Scott-Heron’s acidic Home Is Where The Hatred Is is a terrific opener, I Love You, I Am No More is desperately sad. Like Caesar Needs A Brutus (credited to Bonney/Harvey/Casey/Wydler – more Bad Seeds creep into the picture) is mesmeric. “Caesar needs a Brutus / Jesus needs a Judas, like you and I” sings the plaintive little-girl voice, against a background of laid back drums and organ. Creepy but effective stuff. The voice gets darker in ‘I hate myself’, a searing track about staying with a man who “treats her rough”. The Petrol Wife uses simple acoustic guitar and overlaid vocal tracks (backing vocals by Jayney Klimek) to devastating effect. The traditional Italian partisan song Bella Ciao is simply gorgeous in her hands.
The lighter songs on the album are a bit silly, but fun all the same. Actually Do That Thing is very silly, and the lyrics don’t get any better for being translated into Italian and French in order to spin it out. But Do The Kamasutra is wickedly funny, sexy and totally irresistible: “I want to gatecrash group therapy and let ‘em free / on a wave of radiant energy / I want to turn the lights off and turn this city on.” Not profound, but delicious stuff.
Overall there is no doubt that Mick Harvey, who plays most of the instruments on the album, is a critical ingredient. Anita Lane may have co-written great songs such as From Her to Eternity and Stranger than Kindness with past partner Nick Cave, but this would be somewhat of a lightweight album without the inspired musical arrangements (apparently some tape loops from Bad Seeds jams in the mid-90s are also included). If you’re buying it because of the Cave connection think again, because it’s much poppier than anything from that stable, and at times almost dance music.
Instead you should buy it because it’s a hugely enjoyable album. “Lane and Harvey simply wanted to fashion an effortless, timeless and propulsive sexual groove on which to support her words of lust, despair and hard-fought redemption,” says the press release. I do believe they may have succeeded.