MICK HARVEY – Four (Acts of Love)

Album: Four (Acts of Love)

Artist: Mick Harvey

Label: Mute

Release Date: June 11, 2013

Mick Harvey 6-11

www.mute.com

 

BY MIKE SHANLEY

 

While Nick Cave’s attempts at being a troubadour resulted in a couple albums that were either ponderous or bland (The Boatman’s Call, No More Shall We Part), his former right-hand man Mick Harvey has taken to this style with ease. Harvey has worked more recently scoring films, which could also explain his ability to bring a lot of presence to a stark musical scene. Or else it comes to him naturally.

 

Four (Acts of Love) actually consists of three “acts.” Groups of four or five songs segue into one another, with a couple of them repeating later in the album with “before” and “after” lyrics. The whole thing comes off a bit like a series of monologues or soliloquies from a play, because the songs focus on the lyrics and they typically wrap up once Harvey finishes singing his piece.

The chiming power chords of “I Wish That I Were Stone” for instance, sound like they’re going to create an extended ballad, yet they’re done after 90 seconds. The same goes for both versions of “Where There’s Smoke,” the first offering a quick blast of feedback and organ rumbles, like a Bad Seeds warm-up. The second has a minimal, slinky bass line accompanying Harvey’s voice, which by the final act has changed from an optimistic lover to one who’s been done wrong. 

As usual, Harvey is a strong arranger, who goes from lush guitars to murky noise, with his low voice carrying through. Guitarist/violinist JP Shilo and double bassist Rosie Westbrook appear on the album, but Harvey continues his tradition of playing the majority of the instruments, including guitars, keyboards and drums.

 

Harvey’s wide-ranging taste in covers factors into the album. PJ Harvey’s “Glorious” comes in the first act, as does “Summertime in New York,” a loopy obscurity originally done by pre-world beat songwriter Exuma in the 1970s.  Van Morrison’s “The Way Young Lovers Do” gets turned into a tone poem with some rough bowed bass. The Roy Orbison/Waylon Jennings heartbreaker “Wild Hearts” becomes the centerpiece of the third act, moving slowly but dramatically due to Harvey’s Leonard Cohen-esque croon. Prior to this, he does the same with the Saints’ “Story of Love.”

 

The whole concept of singing about the good and the bad aspects of love is far from an original concept. Yet Mick Harvey, skilled musician that he is, has found a way to make it sound novel again.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Where There’s Smoke (Before),” “Wild Hearts”

 

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