CD: Paloma Faith


The British singer, Paloma Faith, is possessed of a powerhouse voice and buckets of personality. Both were showcased memorably on her 2009 debut album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful? and its 2012 successor, Fall to Grace.

A Perfect Contradiction is the album that should help her crack America. That would certainly appear to be the aim. The opening track and lead single, ‘Can’t Rely On You,’ was co-written and produced by Pharrell Williams, who collaborated on some of the biggest international hits of 2013, including ‘Blurred Lines’, for Robin Thicke, and ‘Lucky’, for Daft Punk. Williams does not disappoint: ‘Can’t Rely On You’ proves to be the perfect vehicle for Faith, a track on which she expresses with utter conviction her doubt in a lover’s fidelity.

That Faith has the American market in her sights is borne out by the presence of ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’, a new track by Dianne Warren, who has written hits for artists as diverse as Celine Dion, Trish Yearwood and Aerosmith. It’s no ‘Unbreak My Heart,’ the track Warren composed for Toni Braxton, but ‘Only Love’ will surely enjoy success as a single.

Faith’s own songwriting can be derivative. ‘Trouble With My Baby’ sounds like a knock-off of Duffy’s 2008 hit, ‘Mercy’. While one might wonder where Duffy has got to in the meantime, six years is hardly long enough to consider her oeuvre fit to plunder.

‘Love Only Leaves You Lonely’ is Faith’s best effort as a writer. Her lyrics, chronicling the litany of indignities a woman must face in the aftermath of a break-up, are saturated with sadness, while her vocals have never seemed so heartfelt. A genuinely affecting track, it is marred only by the unnecessary burst of lead guitar on the outro.

The material on A Perfect Contradiction is otherwise largely uninspired. There are only so many love songs one can stomach, and the album has eleven. Even Faith seems to have baulked at composing so many: ‘The Bigger You Love (The Harder You Fall)’ is a cover of the Sisters Love hit of 1970. It doesn’t match the fervour of the original, and seems to have made the cut to make up the numbers.

Star Rating: 3/5

Art: Willie Doherty/Remains

Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

Willie Doherty’s new exhibition comprises one short film and two photographs. Doherty’s photographs often echo images from his films: the two stills, ‘Remains (Kneecapping behind Creggan shops)’ and ‘Remains (Along the Wall)’ are an introduction to the 15-minute HD video screened in a specially constructed space.

‘Remains’ was shot in Derry, and reflects on vigalante violence in the city. At its heart is Doherty’s footage of a burning car, an image familiar from television coverage of the Troubles. The fire is unattended, suggesting that the car is a getaway vehicle, abandoned on wasteland, and was not set on fire in a riot. The footage is interspersed with tracking images of eerily empty spaces.

The images are accompanied by a voice-over. The narrator is anonymous, but his account of being the victim of two punishment attacks by vigilantes suggests he has a history of petty criminality.

In each case, he seems resigned to his fate. When, as 16-year-olds, he and four others are summoned by vigilantes to a meeting behind the shops, they comply. The option to flee is not viable, and they succumb to their punishment.

Two years later, he is summoned again. This time he is “breathless, alone” and is “guilty of some unspecified crime”. The camera lingers on metal railings and indecipherable graffiti on the walls as he describes his kneecapping: “the cold, dark metal — the soft tissue”. The weapon used is low-velocity. “You won’t be so lucky next time,” he is warned.

History repeats itself, as the narrator’s son is later subjected to the same treatment. He witnesses the kneecapping, but is powerless to intervene. “You will remember,” he says. “You will forget.”

Doherty’s achievement is to engage with the lingering violence of Northern Ireland without lapsing into sentimentality or sensationalism. That the events recounted in ‘Remains’ are fictional does not detract from the film’s power, nor its ability to disturb.

Star Rating: 4/5

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