Beth Gibbons: Lives Outgrown (Domino) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Beth Gibbons

Lives Outgrown

Domino

May 17, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Beth Gibbons’ Lives Outgrown is a weary but resolute dispatch from the back half of existence. A deeply felt and richly conveyed work, that despite its heavy nature (and the inherent personal trials that inspired it) is hardly depressive. After all, this is someone who once sang, on the cusp of middle age, “God knows how I adore life.”

Songs here tend to build organically and unfold easily, with subtle turns in the music leading to majestic choruses. Arrangements are marked—and sometimes defined—by various percussion, working in concert with dry, picked acoustic guitars, eerie woodwinds, disembodied vocal harmonies, menacing horns and strings, and noises in the underbrush to either ensnare you or envelop you. It is a forest-like atmosphere with art house cinema vibes, with threats of existential epiphany or confrontation at every turn.

Prolific, Gibbons is not, and so a new album of original material (one that took 10 years to create, and her first solo effort since her 2002 collaboration with Paul Webb, not counting her 2019 recording of Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)), feels hard-earned and hard-won. The Portishead singer’s dynamic voice remains her calling card and greatest strength, and has always been underpinned, never more so than here, by massive artistic integrity. She manages, as she has so often before, a fierceness and ragged soulfulness informed by tenderness, vulnerability, implied experience, intelligence, and a strong will, but there’s a quality of tiredness to her performance on these songs that is hard to ignore. For someone who at times in her career could pull off the trick of sounding on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Gibbons (or her persona) may be recovering from one. You hear it on every word of the opener, “Tell Me Who You Are Today”—“If I could change the way I feel / If I could make my body heal / Free from all I hear inside.”

Lives Outgrown is a collection that will make you feel small, such is its world view and acknowledgement of the natural world’s—and time’s—brutal indifference to human suffering. But Gibbons is a survivor and advocate, and this album is alive—musically, lyrically—to remind us, in part, that as fragile as we are and subject to unpredictable and inevitable turns in fortune, how we read and react to change, not to mention how we treat each other, will define us and our ability to enjoy the one true gift that can be taken away at any time: “All we have…is here and now.” (www.bethgibbons.net)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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