Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man
Out of Season
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
Released in Europe over a year ago, but only recently making its U.S. debut, Out of Season finds Beth Gibbons stepping outside the trip-hop swirl of Portishead to create a fragile, roots-oriented effort with former Talk Talk bass player Paul Webb (aka Rustin Man). Not that the album is filled with typical singer-songwriter fare. Although hints of Laura Nyro and Tori Amos shuffle through nearly all of the tracks, only Resolve settles into something that truly can be classified as traditional in nature. Instead, Gibbons retains a touch of the hypnotic air that graced much of Portishead’s catalog, though she, Webb, and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Utley (another Portishead alumnus) strip the music down to its barest essence of jazz, folk, blues, and soul.
There’s no question that Gibbons has a tremendous voice, and she uses it to great effect on much of Out of Season, filling her torch songs with an undeniable resonance that demonstrates her remarkable ability to turn each subtle nuance into something bigger. The arrangements that surround her vocals are quiet and somber; they are sometimes stately, sometimes beautiful, and sometimes downright unsettling and eerie. Unfortunately, as the album wears on, its songs also become incredibly drab and boring. The problem is that the tortured, anguished, and miserably melancholic ambience becomes too claustrophobic for its own good.
The first three tracks are excellent: Mysteries succeeds via its gentle blend of graceful folk and angelic harmonies; Tom the Model sparkles with an old-time string arrangement, a splattering of soulful horns, and a haunted accompaniment of organ and percussion; and on Show, Gibbon’s dexterous, Janis Joplin-like vocal style is underscored with tender piano and weepy cello. From there, however, Out of Season’s charms begin to disintegrate rather rapidly, and its songs either revisit — to lesser effect — concepts and ideas already explored, or they simply employ bizarre, gimmicky tactics such as Gibbon’s old-woman cackle on Romance or her breathy, Barbra Streisand-meets-Karen Carpenter crooning on Sand River. Indeed, the only thing memorable about the remainder of the album is the creeping, all-consuming darkness that envelops her voice on Funny Time of Year and a sterling cover of The Velvet Underground’s Candy Says that seems to be suited perfectly to the flavor of Out of Season. By that point, however, only the most patient of her hopelessly depressed fans will still be paying attention.
Out of Season is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box