Release Date: May 3, 2011
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Mick Harvey needs little introduction, but for those who are unfamiliar: He was one of the founding members of the Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds up until his departure in 2009. You’ll also catch him currently on tour with PJ Harvey after he co-produced the NR 10/10 album, Let England Shake. This is the first studio album entirely of his own material, and the title is a literal account of what the album is, a series of sketches of the dead, people Mick Has lost over the years.
Sketches from the Book of the Dead is Mick Harvey's first solo album since leaving the Bad Seeds, a group he was part of for 25 years, mostly as the band's musical director. It could just as easily have been titled "Sketches from My Book of the Dead". This collection of all-original songs was written as a memoriam for people, places, and things; it's a look at how the present impacts life as it moves toward its conclusion, and what will be left unsaid, undone; what will be left behind that matters.
It’s been two years since Mick Harvey’s complexly catalysed 2009 split from the Bad Seeds, and aside from contributing to PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, it’s been largely quiet from the 52-year-old Australian. But Sketches from the Book of the Dead is a project that’s been slowly maturing since long before Harvey quit his day job - not that I’m about to knock him for the delay when Harvey is, by his own admission, 'not a songwriter by vocation', and this is his first fully self-penned record. It was interesting, whilst wading through the relatively humble amount of web-space dedicated to Harvey’s lengthy career, to find him drawing parallels between Sketches from the Book of the Dead and Let England Shake.
It's been a long road to this point for Mick Harvey. He's been in bands since the mid-1970s, and for 32 years was Nick Cave's chief officer, helping to define the sound of the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds as a musical director, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist. He left the Bad Seeds in early 2009 for the usual reasons people leave bands at age 50-- more time with family, simmering creative differences, and a general desire for change and control.
Mick Harvey‘s name might not be immediately recognizable, but it does carry plenty of pedigree. Dating back to their childhood, Harvey and Nick Cave (yes, that Nick Cave) have been in bands together, from The Birthday Party to The Bad Seeds. Harvey may have split from the Seeds in 2009 after a rumored strain in his relationship with Cave, but that doesn’t mean his creativity was relegated to that collaboration.
The first solo offering from former Bad Seed man Harvey since he ended his association with Nick Cave (he’s worked with [a]PJ Harvey[/a] on [b]‘Let England Shake’[/b] in the meantime) is – quelle surprise – a death-rattling bit of doomy, country-tinged singer-songwriterdom centred around the theme of absent friends.Sadly, a lack of focus in melody and structure means it’s not quite as atmospheric as Mick seems to think, and the doleful likes of [b]‘The Ballad Of Jay Givens’[/b], with its “scraggy gum trees”, has neither the drama nor the substance of his work with others.Duncan GillespieOrder a copy of Mick Harvey’s ‘Sketches From The Book of The Dead’ from Amazon .