Friday, 24 May 2013

Album review: MICK HARVEY - Four (Acts Of Love)

Highlights: Glorious, I Wish That I Were Stone, The Story Of Love, Praise The Earth

The long-term association with Nick Cave must be a burden as well as a bonus. Everybody considers Mick Harvey an almost ideal instrumentalist/arranger/sideman, many consider him a brilliant interpreter of other artists’ songs, and surprisingly few consider him a great songwriter. The man remains vastly underrated, and the low-key nature of this new album (which is a humble melodic gem) only proves my point.

Four (Acts Of Love) is something of a concept album dedicated to you-know-what. Its release slipped by so quietly that I almost missed it. Wouldn’t have done anyone too much harm, granted, but there’s something irresistible and positively mesmerising about Harvey’s soft croon and these dark-edged, gentle acoustic melodies that are a little sinister and a great deal charming. The arrangements are tasteful, pretty and to the point. Besides, you can’t deny the consistency; I can only complain about the repetitive and slightly out-of-place cover “Summertime In New York” – the rest works fine, in particular PJ Harvey’s unreleased “Glorious” that sounds… like a damn good PJ Harvey ballad.

I rate Mick Harvey. I rate him very highly indeed, and not just as an interpreter of others’ songs (his two Serge Gainsbourg albums are essential), but as a songwriter in his own right. I’d argue that his previous album, the masterful Sketches From The Book Of The Dead, is more melodically compelling than Nick Cave’s latest. And I loved Push The Sky Away. Yes, instead of striving for greatness Mick decides to settle on goodness, but what a brilliant little album this one is.


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