# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - September 2011

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 28 / 8 / 2011

Miscellaneous - September 2011


Ben Howarth in ‘Condemned to Rock ‘n’ Roll’ asks whether Laura Marling’s much acclaimed third album, ‘A Creature Don’t Know’, has the potential to become a classic

Only a few days after the Reading Festival ended, and before even the Mercury Music Prize winner was announced, and the first Big Autumn Release is with us. These days, we need not wait for the official release date, because we know that 'The Guardian' will be streaming it online with plenty of advance notice. Bored office wage slaves rarely go without a new album to distract them while they populate spreadsheets. This September most attention is going to a new album from the precocious Laura Marling. Her third, it has once again enjoyed blanket media coverage and wall-to-wall four star reviews. There’s much to admire on ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ – her songwriting range has expanded without the bits we liked being thrown away. When the inevitable ‘An Introduction to Laura Marling’ compilation arrives in a few years time, you’d expect a few of these tunes to be on it – although you rather hope she will come to reflect the acoustic guitars suit her best, and let the occasional stabs of electric guitar heard for the first time here remain occasional. She may live to regret her newly acquired accent, which crops up on the album’s first song, a mock-country drawl (‘muntry’, anyone?) and, in time, she may think there are too many nods to her influences – a bit of Nick Drake guitar here, some Leonard Cohen there and the odd vocal nod to Regina Spektor. Has she been listening to John Martyn? I think so. But, I think we’ll end up all agreeing that her third album is better than either her first or second. What it might be missing is the true classic, the tearjerker, the song you want to play over and over again. But, it may end up being there, and I’ve just not realised yet. As I’ve mentioned before, it often takes me a long time to decide about albums (I still haven’t completely made my mind up about this year’s Emmy The Great album, for example, although I listen to it a lot). So perhaps you’d cut me some slack and excuse a proper review. If you want an authoritative judgement of this album, come back and ask me next September. My initial impression is that this album will find friends – provided they have patience. The songs are less catchy than those on ‘Alas, I Couldn’t Swim’, but more imaginative. The question I’m left with, however, is why Marling gets so much more attention than other singer-songwriters of similar inclinations and abilities? She’s not the first female singer songwriter to blend an admiration for Joni Mitchell with indie and folk. Beth Orton was doing a similar thing, and getting plenty of acclaim for it, a decade ago. Her deep voice isn’t the prettiest around – again you are reminded of another British female singer songwriter, Thea Gilmore. Likewise, she isn’t the first person to get a Mercury nomination in the ‘girl with an acoustic guitar who probably won’t win’ category – Kathryn Williams got nudged in the mainstream with that a decade ago, and has subtly developed her craft in the years that have followed. I haven’t even mentioned some Americans who I think should be more famous than they are – Anais Mitchell with her ballads fusing contemporary issues into biblical allusions, or Laura Veirs with her geological imagery. None of that should be read as a criticism of Laura Marling. ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ won’t lose much in comparison with anyone I’ve listed above. It’s just odd that she gets so much attention, when others don’t. This illustrates how much luck and timing determine how successful certain musicians are going to be. Marling is clearly aware that she gets a lot of media attention because of her age and her romantic links to two other lead singers. Journalists like good stories to write about, and Marling seems to have them. But, after three albums, journalists only get to keep telling those stories if readers still want to read them. Laura Marling has kept people’s attention, and I suspect her work will have a much longer shelf life than anything by her exes. Though she is still just 21, I think her admirers already expect a lot from her. Are they, in fact, already imagining her as a sexagenarian, making her comeback with album 21? Will we be looking back on a long career, tracking our lives to Marling’s music, in the way older music fans grew up with Joni Mitchell and Neil Young? After all, was Neil Young actually any more talented than his peers, or just luckier? You could have written a similar article to the one I’m writing now about Neil Young, subbing in Guy Clark, David Crosby and Stephen Stills. How about matching up Joni Mitchell with Judee Sill? The difference is not necessarily how good these songwriters were when they were at their very best – the difference was staying power and career development. While I am sure that Anais Mitchell will be due a Judee Sill style critical reappraisal in years to come (look out my Mojo Hidden Treasures on ‘The Brightness’, due to be published in 2041), I think that Laura Marling is poised to become a legend. It’ll be fascinating to see if I’m right.

Also In Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors