Marianne Faithfull is--after 38 years in music--still more famous for whom she had sex with in the 1960s than for her talents as singer and lyricist. Her 11th album, Kissin' Time, uses her wise and angry knowledge of this unjust state of affairs, and comes up smelling not of roses, but stale perfume, spilt gin and sex. The result is her best-ever album. Comprising collaborations with the likes of Beck, Blur, Pulp, The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan and The Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, Kissin' Time takes in everything from spiky electro-pop (Beck's superb "Sex with Strangers") to Tom Waits-lite (Blur's rather self-conscious title track), by way of "Song for Nico"'s no-punches-pulled ballad tribute to the late Velvet Underground chanteuse, and the magnificent "Sliding Through Life on Charm", where Pulp's rousing anthemics provide the perfect backdrop for Ms Faithfull's hilariously filthy autobiographical defiance. Faithfull's cracked cabaret growl and painfully personal lyrics remain an acquired taste. But, if you can deal with a middle-aged woman's sexual and emotional honesty, and the album's deliberately eclectic tunes and textures, then Kissin' Time is a classic of bold, bitter and elegantly profane pop art. --Garry Mulholland
Among them is the wistful "Like Being Born," sultry electropop "Sex With Strangers"; the soaring, exceptional "I'm On Fire" (one of the cowritten Corgan songs); the folkier "Wherever I Go" (Corgan again); the loving ballad for the late Velvet Underground singer Nico in "Song For Nico" ("she's in the s***/though she's innocent... Yesterday is gone/there's just today/no more"), the searing, bitterness edged "Sliding Through Life on Charm"; the catchy "Love & Money"; the more lackluster title track; and the pleasant but unassuming cover of "Something Good," which is elevated to better quality by Corgan's background music.
You won't find I-love-him-so-much-from-afar or I'm-so-miserable-that-he-left-me songs on "Kissin Time." This album brings to mind dead roses, a few drugs, a little booze and cigarette smoke, and memories both tender and bitter. Marianne doesn't hold back on the nastier moments of her past, making references to Andrew Oldham and her "fall from grace" off a pedestal "I never asked to be on in the first place." You can hear the scars in her memory. ("I was only trying to please/I never got any royalties/oh no, not me... if Marianne was born a man/she'd show you all")
Her voice shows the wear and tear of time, cracking and straining a little at times (such as in "Nobody's Fault"). But somehow this flaw makes her singing seem far more appealing than oversynthesized, cleaned-up singing does. And her work with Billy Corgan produced some of the best on this album; his complex, flowing music makes a good backdrop for Marianne's voice.
It's not pop/rock as you think of it, and the album ages well with repeated listenings. Marianne's past love life may be what people first think of, but this sort of music is what she deserves to be thought of for.