fri 10/04/2020

Album: Maria McKee - La Vita Nuova | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Maria McKee - La Vita Nuova

Album: Maria McKee - La Vita Nuova

The corrupted country-punk behind 'Show Me Heaven' is radically reborn

From Tom Cruise soundtrack hit singer to self-described “pansexual, polyamorous, gender-fluid dyke”, and from LA country-punks Lone Justice to a Blakean songwriter in thrall to London’s phantom spirits,

From Tom Cruise soundtrack hit singer to self-described “pansexual, polyamorous, gender-fluid dyke”, and from LA country-punks Lone Justice to a Blakean songwriter in thrall to London’s phantom spirits, Maria McKee’s 13-year musical absence has ended in personally spectacular fashion.

La Vita Nuova’s title is from Dante, and its new life is traced in this song-suite’s pursuit of a muse-lover, partly intended to be McKee’s younger, idealistic self. The mix of strings, brass and electric guitars also honours her late brother, Love’s co-founder Bryan MacLean, and there is an LA swagger to an album in tune with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ Fleetwood Mac and Warren Zevon’s early, bloody romanticism as much as Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny.

References aside, La Vita Nuova is mainly a gusher, a well of inspiration tapped then left in full, flushed flow. Lyrics come in florid torrents, knotty words flooding out, voice swooping and soaring as if freshly uncaged. On “I Should Have Looked Away”, the piano’s rhythmic progress is haltingly rapid, tidal and finally triumphant. Magic’s transformative art is invoked, literal lovers limned in “the honey of your skin, the heart shape of your mouth”. The violent unhinging McKee has experienced, a witchy madness resulting in new sanity, is repeatedly recalled. As she sings in “Page of Cups”, “I have allowed myself autonomy to wanderingly stray/Into fanaticism of a daring kind/...I let it drag me to my knees/Then down along the floor.” Holed up in both Bloomsbury and LA these days, McKee’s love affair with the capital is consummated in “Right Down to the Heart of London”, in which she drops mementos into the flow of history, “weeping at the beauty of it all”.  

La Vita Nuova is produced by McKee’s husband Jim Akin, also a long-time creative partner whose place in her life has clearly radically changed. Tenderness towards those bruised in the rush and push to conquer queer, creative new ground colours the Bowiesque acoustic ballad “I Just Want To Know If You’re Alright”, and “However Worn”, a reflective, lulling comfort after the tempest.

You could easily decide it’s all too much: over-written, overwrought, or over-ambitious. But the maximalist surges and overreaching tumbles are ingredients in an infectious act of liberation, still possessing pop melodicism and allied to Love’s baroque elegance, but carrying McKee off to virgin territory. “I thought I’d seen everything,” she whispers in “Courage”. Instead, she has been optimistically reborn.

The violent unhinging McKee has experienced, a witchy madness resulting in new sanity, is repeatedly recalled

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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