REVIEW BY: Mark Millan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/25/2009
The ‘90s were a diverse and rewarding decade for Marianne Faithfull. After three classical based albums and a trek around the globe touring her Weimar Cabaret show, Marianne returned to rock with the stunningly dark, critically-acclaimed Vagabond Ways. Following a short break to recharge and rethink her direction, Faithfull decided to make a collaborative album featuring some of her newly discovered favorite artists. The then-current electronic/rock movement had impressed Faithfull enough to seek out the genre’s finest artists to work with on her own material, which would again be a complete departure of style from her most recent triumph.
Kissin’ Time kicks off with the minimalist pop track “Sex With Strangers,” which is all bass and bleeps thanks to its writer/producer Beck. Marianne’s lyrics are abstract but to-the-point and she gives a great understated performance. This song for me is most memorable because of its video starring Faithfull’s pal Kate Moss as the femme fatale. “The Pleasure Song” was co-written and produced by Etienne Daho, and his signature style (not unlike Beck’s) is all over this song in a series of urban beats that unfortunately wash out Faithfull’s voice to the point where she is barely audible at times.
“Like Being Born” is another Beck/Faithfull song that is a throwback to Marianne’s ‘60s pop ditties. It’s sweet in its simplicity, but Faithfull’s refusal to elaborate what appears to be more personal lyrics is slightly frustrating because it doesn’t quite evoke the sentiment that it should. Faithfull sat down with Billy Corgan one day to write a hymn of sorts and they came up with “I’m On Fire.” Corgan’s arrangement is genius, and Faithfull writes of her youthful innocence: “When I was young and my heart was pure / I only wanted love, I had allure.” A truly great song, indeed.
The pair also penned the next song, “Wherever I Go,” which is pure pop right down to Marianne’s carefree, love-struck lyric. “Song For Nico” was written by Faithfull and Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics) as a tribute to the German songstress after Marianne had read a biography about her. The lines blur, however, when comparing the tales of Nico to Marianne’s own colorful past: “And when Brian Jones is near, Nico doesn’t feel so queer / She’s in the shit, though she’s innocent.” Needless to say, thanks to Stewart’s attentive production, it’s a near perfect pop song.
“Sliding Through Life On Charm” is a title that Faithfull had been trying unsuccessfully for years to use for an autobiographical song of her own, but according to her she “couldn’t find a fucking rhyme.” Luckily, Jarvis Cocker could, and although he delivered it to Marianne some years earlier, she claims it took her a while to understand it enough before she could sing it. It is an odd song consisting of a blistering rock arrangement and seriously demented lyrics that even I don’t quite understand. Amid a sea of profanity and baffling analogies there is, however, some poignancy in hearing Faithfull reaffirm, “I am a muse, not a mistress, not a whore.”
“Love And Money” is a funky little pop song that thankfully lightens the mood greatly. Marianne’s breezy delivery is again a nod to her past life as a folk singer during the mid-‘60s. “Nobody’s Fault” is a cover of the Beck original that graced his awesome Mutations album. It’s a good choice for Faithfull, who has an uncanny knack of making any song her own.
The understated funk of the title track (written and performed with Blur) is one of the disc’s strongest cuts and suits Marianne’s style wonderfully. Her nonchalant delivery is a perfect match for the boy’s loose but seriously catchy groove. The most surprising moment of this experience comes at the very end with the closer, a glorious modern take on the Goffin/King classic “Something Good.” Corgan again provided the soundscape for Faithfull, who does deliver the goods, but there’s no owning this classic. If I’m honest, I gotta say that while it’s pleasant enough to hear a few times, it may not be the wisest choice Marianne has made in the studio.
Overall Kissin’ Time is a strange album, and if you’re not a fan of Ms. Faithfull’s, you may find it utterly confusing altogether. It does have its inspired moments, but there wasn’t much meat on this bone to begin with and wisely Faithfull realized this herself before it was too late. Although parts of Kissin’ Time sound a little dated these days, at the time it was (and still is) a solid and daring body of work, one that Marianne Faithfull delivered with an unwavering conviction.