Mick Harvey, Two of Diamonds

Mick Harvey, Two of Diamonds

Mick Harvey, the once partner of Mr. Nick Cave, was the second half of Australian noiseniks, The Birthday Party. Two of Diamonds, the latest release from Mr. Harvey, is a long way from those Birthday Party days. Yeah, there’s a musical maturity; call it introspection or even a keen skill of observation. These are songs.

“Photograph” is lonely, lush, soft, and achey. A voice made rich by years and experience (the good & the bad). There’s a soundtrack quality here, even if there’s no film to support it. Do you know what I mean? A type of musical landscape that partners well with a story, or a directness of intent. And there is definitely no lack of intent here. I’m a sucker for the lonely-heartache songs, and the refrain of “Why does it always make me feel this way?” is a perfect response to the gentle string-rakes of the acoustic guitar and the tinkling piano keys.

I’m sure the fears and horrors of comparisons to Mr. Cave are a challenge to get around for Mr. Harvey. The second cut, “I Don’t Want You on My Mind,” will not help you. The half-mumbly baritone voice, a twangy Telecaster, the stabbing Hammond organ, holding on to eerie chord sequences behind a march-like beat will make anyone — anyone — sound like Nick Cave. Pass this one up; comparison is inevitable. Pass up the next one, too; same thing.

“Here I Am” is a song full of beautiful longing with angelic back-up vocals, brushed drums, and a looming triumph hidden underneath. “You are the blood of my heart, the breath of my lungs…” Here’s a man with a guitar (and a band, and production, etc., etc.) who’s not polluting everything with metaphor or letting ornaments get in the way of the ultimate sincerity of getting his point across.

Yet, there’s a haunting Nick Cave-ness every other song or so. Is this something imagined? I think not. Those who are not initiated to this duo will be none the wiser; those who are, however, will certainly find the comparisons impossible (but not un-enjoyable). When you approach a song with more Hammond-stabs and reverb-soaked Telecasters and talk about Jesus in a tragic-narrative tone, half-sung/half-spoken like “Everything’s Fixed,” what do you think you’re getting into? You’ll either fall into Johnny Cash territory or Nick Cave’s. The answer to this one is not Johnny Cash.

Mind you, Mick Harvey has nice voice. He’s a real singer — a crooner, even. It’s classic, this album, in the sense that the songs are complete and there’s little room for complaints. You get the feeling you’ve heard them before without having actually heard them. Sadly, I would find the Two of Diamonds more enjoyable if the more ‘Cavey’ songs were abandoned. Leave off the instrumentation and arrangements that will cause the least bit of suspicion. Why even tread those troubled waters?

(Mute Recordings -- 101 Avenue of the Americas, 4th Floor, New York, NY. 10013; http://www.mute.com/; Mick Harvey -- http://www.mickharvey.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Thursday, September 13th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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