Anita Lane

Dirty Pearl

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Not so much an album as a collection organized in reverse chronological order, Dirty Pearl takes in just about all the various tracks Lane had recorded by herself or with other groups over a decade's worth of recording. Given her early association with Nick Cave and the Birthday Party, it's little surprise that Cave and various Bad Seeds and associated bands, like Einst├╝rzende Neubaten and Die Haut, crop up as backing performers, while Mick Harvey handles most of the production and instrumentation and Barry Adamson contributes some of his sharp arranging skills here and there. If a bit fragmented as a result, Dirty Pearl still makes for an involving listen, demonstrating clearly that her work is worth taking on its own terms instead of simply being a Cave footnote. Besides having a good if at points girlish voice, albeit one that she's shown more control over with time -- rather like Cave! -- she has a taste for smoky sonic settings for her vocals, sometimes low-key and sly, other times frenetic even as she keeps her cool. Her ear for cover versions, in particular, shows somebody unafraid of taking chances -- besides a gripping revamp of the Sisters Sledge hit "Lost in Music," backed in part by Cave and Adamson that originally appeared on the Dirty Sings EP, there's also a more recent take on Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." Compared to the near-contemporary Soul Asylum groan through the same song, Lane hits incredible heights, her delivery sensuous even as the familiar melody becomes a beautifully dramatic film noir tearjerker. Her originals, including a slew of excellent numbers co-written with Harvey, like the ruined cowboy/western sorrow of "Jesus Almost Got Me" and the heavy moodout of "Picture of Mary," a collaboration with Blixa Bargeld, are just as fine.

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