Ask most people what Marianne Faithfull is famous for and you’ll get a bewildering variety of answers. Actress? Singer? Groupie? Well, no. She’s famous for having sex with famous people. It is this tantalising premise that Kissin’ Time is based around. Clearly, Ms Faithfull is annoyed at the perception of not being recognised for her own work as much as for her well-documented romantic liaisons. Kissin’ Time, happily, goes a long way to putting that right.
For this album she’s got some celebrity mates to help her out. Sex With Strangers lays down the lyrical gauntlet at the very start of the album and features a lo-fi funk fest of disco keyboards, groovy beats and atmospheric synth sounds courtesy of Beck Hansen. The vocals remind one of Serge Gainsbourg, a certain cabaret quality mixing with an obviously mature voice which could not belong to any waif-like pop poppet.
Already we’re aware that Ms Faithfull isn’t scared to talk about being a middle-aged woman and about her past. It is that past that gives her depth and marks her out from the shallow squeals of assorted divas about her. Here is a real woman with real experiences to talk about. That she chooses a medium that can only be described as pop art – in the Andy Warhol sense – is all the better for us listeners.
Etienne Daho is on hand to provide a suitably seedy electronic backdrop to The Pleasure Song as Ms Faithfull groans and moans about how much pleasure and love she’s got to give. It’s warped, but it’s damned catchy. Beck is back again for Like Being Born, a Joni Mitchell-style guitar led folk-rock whim of a song. Fans of Fairport Convention should be well satisfied with this one.
Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins pops up for a fucked-up psychadelic duet of sorts on I’m On Fire. It doesn’t work as well as it should, for Ms Faithfull’s instantly recognisable vocals sound out of place in the rich textured soundscape. Corgan’s second contribution follows and Wherever I Go gels the two a little better.
Eurythmics‘ Dave Stewart is the collaborator for Song For Nico, one of the stand-out tracks of the album. It isn’t anything like as inventive as most of the collaborations on this record, but features unsettling chord changes and plods forth at a rate that perfectly suits Ms Faithfull’s voice.
Another of the stand-out tracks immediately follows. Sliding Through Life On Charm features the same starting chord sequence as Pulp‘s Have You Seen Her Lately? and mutates into something like Common People. As it is essentially a Pulp song, with all but Candida Doyle from the band playing, the similarities are hardly surprising. The lyrics are as depraved as you’d ever ask from the minds of Ms Faithfull and Jarvis Cocker – and while it is a great song we can’t help but wonder what it would’ve sounded like with Jarvis on vocal duties.
Love and Money is the first foray in the general direction of reggae and ticks by nicely, while Beck’s Nobody’s Fault is a depressing dirge-dump of alt-country, the music perfectly suited to lyrics and vocals. But it is with the closing title track, featuring Blur, that we get the essence of the record brought home. It ambles along in a skewed, nearly-reggae way, with Damon Albarn‘s distinctive mockney-moaning backing vocals making us wonder why he didn’t have Ms Faithfull guest star on the Gorillaz album.
A worthy investment for art collectors everywhere, this has moments for any mood life throws you into. And despite the over-reliance on celebrities and some doubt about how far she was responsible for the final result, Marianne Faithfull, artiste, is back. This is her best album yet.