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Mick Harvey ‘Sketches From The Book Of The Dead’

Sketches From The Book Of The Dead’ is Mick Harvey’s first proper solo album. I say proper, because he has actually released four prior albums – two consisting completely of Serge Gainsbourg tributes, and two made up predominantly of covers. But this is the first time in his career (spanning over three decades) that he’s recorded an album of entirely self-written songs.

Mick Harvey is a musical legend, despite very few knowing his name. He was a founding member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – along with Nick Cave, naturally – and remained Cave’s songwriting partner in crime for 25 years, until Harvey left the Bad Seeds (for ‘professional and personal reasons’) in 2009. His Cave-collaborations actually extend even further back, to the days of Australian band the Birthday Party, meaning that Mick has been a central part of 36 years of Nick Cave releases. Mick – who can pretty much play any instrument – has also performed with PJ Harvey and Dave McComb’s The Triffids, and written numerous film scores (including soundtracking cult hit Chopper).

Considering his musical background, the overall sound of this LP isn’t in anyway surprising – slow, blues-infused folk ballads, saturated with an almost overbearing melancholy. Harvey’s southern-tinged voice has a fair bit more range than life-long companion Cave – he can hit some higher notes, but rarely does, instead opting for a lower-pitched moan. Highlights include the haunting opener of ‘October Boy’ – a drunken bar song containing miserable but affecting acoustic strumming – and ‘That’s All, Paul,’ in which Harvey’s vocals convincing convey detest. The most tender and, perhaps, most captivating moment of the album is ‘Two Paintings,’ with its simple piano and drum brushing being more than enough to pull at the heartstrings.

‘Sketches From The Book Of The Dead’ is an entirely stripped down and somber affair, in the vein of the later recordings of the late Johnny Cash (think Cash’s cover of NIN’s ‘Hurt’ and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the overall tone and lyrical theme of the album). It sounds like the soundtrack to some sleepy western movie – melodramatic and cinematic in its style. The major gripe with this album, however, is the severe lack of variation. The album closes with a sleazy, bluesy, rock’n’roll track, with a bit more pace and distorted electrical guitars, and it would have been nice to hear a bit more of Harvey rocking out like this. But there’s no denying the songwriting genius of this multi-instrumentalist. Check it out on May 2.

Originally published by AAA Music here

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~ by cliveparisrozario on April 23, 2011.

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