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Beth Gibbons - Lives Outgrown (Album Review)

Wednesday, 05 June 2024 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Netti Habel

If you hear that the singer of a band you like is going to work on a solo project, it’s reasonable to react with a little bit of trepidation. Will it expand upon that established sound or reveal the limits of the artist’s (or group’s) talents? Perhaps most importantly…will it break up the band?

It would be tough to apply this latter question to the news that Beth Gibbons, of Portishead, was making a record. For one, that announcement was first made 11 years ago in 2013, and for two, Portishead have only released three albums in their entire 30 plus year existence. These are musicians who — like Nick Drake or Lauryn Hill — have produced far less music than their influence would suggest. 

The album in question, 'Lives Outgrown' is likely one of the best of the year and will probably end up being on 2020s album lists.

It combines Gibbons’ astounding singing with powerful and innovative songwriting, where unpredictable chord structures scaffold abstruse yet perfect arrangements and playing.

Lyrically, the album is vast and rich. Motherhood, menopause, mortality and everything in between is covered with awareness and poise, while the actual compositions are strikingly versatile. Gibbons’ signature sound with Portishead is dark and mournful, but this is a basis for a panoply of other emotional states here.

There is a lot to dig into, from the primal ecstasy of Beyond the Sun to the Spaghetti Western cynicism of Floating on a Moment, to the desert blues of Rewind. It's hard to find comparisons, but perhaps 'Lives Outgrown’ brings to mind the most recent albums by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Baxter Drury. These are two other artists who appear to have found their solo voice a little later in their careers, and who have managed to combine a great deal of experience with a lightness and wisdom which is utterly captivating and new-feeling.

Would the world be a better place if Gibbons put out more music? Who knows. Probably not. This is completely different but still very modern. It’s an astounding album. If you like Portishead, then you will probably like this, but in a completely fresh way.

Beth Gibbons Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun June 09 2024 - LONDON Barbican Hall
Mon June 10 2024 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Tue June 11 2024 - EDINBURGH Usher Hall

Compare & Buy Beth Gibbons Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


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