They say that good things come to those that wait and so is the case with the sophomore release from Catherine Anne Davies AKA The Anchoress. The Art Of Losing was due for release early last year before…you know. Luckily the record has a timeless quality that makes it sound that you could sit down with it this week, straight after it release, or 20 years down the road and it will speak to you and touch you in the same deep devastating ways. It hits in the same way as Lou Reed’s Berlin or Bowie’s Low, two albums that I came to years late but sounded as fresh as the summer breeze. Or perhaps the winter snow would be a better comparison.
Let’s talk about the Manic Street Preachers similarities, firstly the beautiful packaging, where the photography and lyric sheet are just right and each song has its own quote from writers varying from Joan Didion to F. Scott Fitzgerald. So far, so Generation Terrorists. For those that don’t know, The Anchoress has appeared on tour with MSP taking Traci Lords part on Little Baby Nothing and also featured on Dylan And Caitlin, easily the best track on Resistance Is Futile. James Dean Bradfield himself appears on shredding guitar on the title track and sings on the stunning The Exchange – Here we should also note that Davies does not sound outdone by one of the best voices of the last three decades, their voices gel so brilliantly that you selfishly wonder whether we could have an album of just duets, maybe a Johnny Cash / Jack White style project? Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself, JDB is fantastic here and Davies also gives us a stunning version (and I will ALWAYS be suspicious of anyone, even bands I love trying to cover MSP) of Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky that comes with the Indie Exclusive version of the album, on a leopard print 7″ because…of course it does.
The album begins and ends with beautiful piano motifs, gently bringing you in and manoeuvring you out of the dark tales within. Hell, the first sung line is “Ouch, this is going to hurt.” Show Your Face is a Mansun-esque glitter pop banger in the style of Stripper Vicar. I was worried that the pre-release songs were so great that the rest of the album could not keep up, but hell, this is an artist at the top of her game. If Confessions Of A Romance Novelist was Generation Terrorists, then The Art Of Losing is The Holy Bible. Ouch, indeed.
The title track is one of my favourites, featuring the storming work of Bowie drummer Sterling Campbell and Davies at her lyrical height “How much more can she take? One more child, one more rape”. I hope that we might get a book of Davies’ lyrics at some point down the road, she looks dead in the face what others shy away from or skirt around. See also the gutting 5AM, which looks at abuse, hurt and the loss of a child/children – the main lyrical punch referring to dripping blood, first on the carpet, then on concrete, ie. in a place that should be safe vs another place that, hell, should also be safe, are we goddamn animals? Of course, as a man, I can only get a certain percentage of the horror of this track but the fact it made me just stop and stare at my stereo, feeling all the colour drain from my face, shows its power. Incredible.
The Art Of Losing is not a difficult sophomore record, well it IS a difficult record but not in that way, just in a purely artistic way. So many emotional moments, stunning lyrics, beautiful music. There are moments of Burt Bacharach, Scott Walker and Amanda Palmer but as a whole The Art Of Losing is Catherine Anne Davies looking you dead in the eyes and offering truth, emotion and a damn ugly/beautiful album.