Monday, October 17, 2005


Um, I forgot about my alphabet thing. You know, how I'm going through the alphabet musically? Well, I went to Berlin and completely forgot about it.

I believe I've left you hanging at the letter T.

Martina Topley-Bird.

You may know her best as the vocalist on the Tricky albums, but she put out a really beautiful album all by herself back in 2003. Well, with a little help from her friends.

In August of 2003, I was lying on the floor in Greg Dulli's living room, drinking Maker's in the middle of the day and playing with his (dearly departed - RIP, Clyde)cat. He had some movie on (ah hell, it was probably porn) but he was really dorking out over music. He'd been playing DJ for hours. I was kinda of contributing to the conversation, but mostly these sort of afternoons were more about Greg being really jazzed on something he'd just found or just heard and he really wanted you to be equally as jazzed. This particular afternoon, he finally got the "OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS" reaction out of me that he hadn't gotten so far.

"Okay Mo, you're really gonna love this," he said, picking up a CD off the cluttered coffee table while I said, "Uh, huh... yea" and kept on scratching Clyde. He cranked up the stereo, and a crackled bluesy old man voice echoed out... "Too tough to die!" And then a really deep groovy bass kicked in, and a woman's cackly soulful not-quite Billie Holliday voice kicked in: "I always wonder why my mama left town..."

I was no longer lying on the floor. "Dude, what is this?" Greg sat there nodding and grinning like a Chesire cat. I listened a bit more and couldn't believe how great it was... "Is this the Tricky chick? What's her name? Marina?" "Martina," Greg said, exhaling cigarette smoke and looking very pleased that I was pretty much losing it over the one song. "Yea, my band's gonna cover this song." "How?" I said. I genuinely could not see how he could possibly cover this song... it was just so... hers.

I checked out the liner notes to find that this CD, Martina Topley-Bird's Quixotic, had been released only a month or so before in England. Greg had a copy because his friend Mark Lanegan (and current collaborator on a project called the Gutter Twins) made an appearance on the CD, along with Queen of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, on the second track "Need One." The track I was currently going ga-ga over, "Too Tough To Die," was a bluesy rocker co-written and produced by David Holmes, a sort of cinematic dark hop artist of the late 90's who has gotten regular work scoring Steven Soderberg films (like Ocean's Eleven) and more recently tripping the DJ lights fantastic with sixties style blue eyed soul electro remixes.

So after that track, Greg goes, "Okay - you've gotta hear this one." He skips to a tune called "Lying" which puts Martina's voice back in the familiar context of the Tricky songs I was accustomed to hearing (and most people reading this have at least heard "Makes Me Wanna Die" from Pre-Millenium Tension). It was a pretty, contemplative number with somber beats and her breathy yet earthy voice, and words like this: "I walked out of the house in your girlfriend's clothes... They fit me better than I would have supposed..."

"Man!" Greg said. "I wish I'd come up with that. Isn't that fucking excellent?"

We listened to the whole CD, many times over, for the next couple months. I was too broke to buy the import, but he'd burned me a copy anyway and finally I saved my pennies and got one. In the meantime, I'd been turning other friends on to it. It made my Top Ten list of last year. Then the album was released in the States under the title Anything, and the cover is now a bit sexed up. A few of the songs have been dropped too, including "Lying"(so buy the import anyway).

Oh, and Greg did cover the song on his last covers CD. I like Martina's better, though. Sorry, dude!