Sunday 2 September 2012

Cat Power - Sun

Album review by KevW

It may be the case that problems with drink, drugs and mental health have been the catalyst for some truly affecting and inspirational music, but eventually they take their toll. Rock music's history is littered with premature deaths, breakdowns and artists such as Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson and Peter Green simply disappearing for years for treatment in an attempt to get their lives back on track. Charlyn Marie Marshall (Cat Power to you and me) has certainly had her fair share of troubles of this kind, and 'Sun' is her first album of original material for six years. Without wishing to assess the health of someone I've never met, it would appear that this album shows Cat Power back on top form with what could well be her strongest set of songs so far.

The recording process was fractured, taking place over the course of five years and features a guest spot from fellow battle-scarred rock hero Iggy Pop on the eleven-minute (and astonishingly good) album highlight 'Nothin' But Time', a track that bursts with defiant optimism. Like much of this record the message isn't a document of the struggles she's endured, but vision of the future, a brighter and better future. Its message is clear "you wanna reach the end... you wanna live... the world is just beginning... it's up to you to be a superhero." It's a moving and inspiring piece, Iggy's grizzled, world-weary backing only serves to intensify the message. The dalliance with trip-hop on the excellent 'Cherokee' and '3,6,9' firmly state that Power isn't resting on any laurels. The gap in her career needs to be marked with a comeback of some stature.

Maybe the story behind the album sways opinion slightly, but 'Sun' feels designed to tell a story of triumph over adversity. "Here it comes, we're all so tired of waiting", a line from the title-track could be a sly dig at her own hiatus, but in reality you could have a field day dissecting the lyrics here. There are more immediate, even radio-friendly tracks such as 'Ruin' and 'Real Life', while 'Human Being' almost toys with psychedelia. Whether her fanbase will have stuck with her through those barren years is irrelevant as this album should see her reach out to a whole new generation. The break appears to have done Power the world of good musically, and we hope personally too. It just might be that 'Sun' is the best collection she's ever produced.

Download 'Cherokee' for free from Cat Power's website

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