[midlife 150] #103: cat power “love and communication”

February 6, 2011

Album cover for The Greatest by Cat Power

#103 Love And Communication” by Cat Power, available on The Greatest, 2006 [buy from Amazon.co.uk] [buy from iTunes]

The closer on Cat Power’s 2006 opus, The Greatest, “Love And Communication” perhaps (in retrospect) documents singer-songwriter Chan Marshall on the edge of a precipice – shortly after its release she was briefly admitted into a psychiatric ward for mental exhaustion and alcohol abuse.

The album as a whole was her most popular to date, helped by setting Marshall’s purely wrought vocal over immaculate piano and string arrangements along with soulful accompaniment from Memphis session legends Teenie and Flick Hodges, who wrote and played with Al Green at his 1970s peak.

On “Love And Communication” the musicians largely eschew harmonious niceties and the song is all the better for it. Trapped in a perpetual gritty guitar A-E-F-D chord loop and (going by the increasingly strained string pulses) becoming more desperate with each circuit Marshall repeatedly reaches for “something better”. She never quite finds it, but nevertheless clings on to a comforting faith in love and communication.

The bluesy, heartfelt and (comparatively) raw performance creates an impression of carrying burdens too heavy, too formidable, to sustain for long. As the song staggers forward it starts to bend under its emotional weight, each step that bit harder than the last.

When it finally gives out you’re relieved, of course. But you can’t help feeling that if you’ve given up your struggle, what’s left?

This review is part of close to 94‘s [midlife 150] series, which counts down favourite music 1970-2009.

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