Jehnny Beth: To Love Is to Live review – intense and provocative

The Savages frontwoman goes solo with an accompanying erotic short story collection

Camille “Jehnny Beth” Berthomier spent the 00s fronting Savages, a post-punk outfit dedicated to discomfort and artistic provocation. The solo Jehnny Beth continues to strut, glare and finger the uncomfortable places.

Accompanying the release of her debut solo album is an illustrated collection of erotic short stories, CALM: Crimes Against Love Memories, whose preface rails against societal restraints on women’s desire while embracing the sovereignty of the imagination. To Love Is to Live is delivered in the same breath, so to speak.

As ever, Beth’s theorising is air-tight, but ironically, the album stutters most when it is being most provocative. The intense Flower hymns an exotic dancer at an LA bar – “a flower filled with murder”, no less – while I’m a Man finds Cillian Murphy voicing Beth’s “feelings of hatred and violence”.

Expanding Savages’ post-punk remit, these 11 songs do embrace welcome variations in pace; there are sax, strings and electronics. Cleverest of all is the way Beth intones “We will sin together” (rather than the expected word, “sings”) on the track of the same name. Most novel are the simple piano songs, such as the excellent The Rooms or French Countryside, which meditates on “how hard it is to show you really care”.

Watch the video for Flower by Jehnny Beth.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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