“I throw myself in deep, the air feels thick and wired,” Conway croons darkly over a ticking rhythm, a haze of crckling static and a pulsing bass track. We’re a long, long way from the jangly pop of 1991’s String of Pearls.
Written in London after she discovered her second album wouldn’t get an overseas release, these torch songs simmer rather than boil. Drum patterns clink and clunk, keyboard fills flutter and guitar strings vibrate. It’s a record of slow shifts in musical arrangement and melodramatic feelings lyrically. In the sneaky crawl of “Only the Bones (Will Show)”, she snarls, “These thoughts of doing myself in could only serve to make this a better place, so put on a happy face.”
Does it work? Yes and no. Conway can get a little mannered over a long stretch, and when she cuts loose on the gnarly “It’s a Girl Thing”, you wonder what would happen if she undid the top button more often. (Mushroom , $29.95) Grade: B-
The art of being immature
“One does have to be careful,” Deborah Conway tells me.”Think of Julian Lennon.” We’re discussing the possibility of Syd, her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, growing up to follow in the footsteps of her parents. (Conway’s partner, Willy Zygier, is co-writer and instrumentalist on her last two albums.) With her black hair, pale face, dark lips and direct stare, Melbourne raised Conway, 37, is an imposing presence, and gives answers that are at the same time flip, dramatic and funny.
The past couple of years have been spent in London, and she will return there in April after the birth of her second child. “I was bored,” she says of the initial move overseas. “I wanted to go away and do something weird and wacky. And I was rebelling against becoming a mother. You’re meant to settle down and become a nesting, so I wnt vigorously the other way.” She smiles. “I’m so immature, I really am. It’s hopeless. I’m such and adolescent.”
Her third solo album, My Third Husband, was developed in London, and the title is a phrase she has always wanted to use, “but one has to get married a few times, so I thought this was an easy way to incorporate it into my life.”
When describing the new songs, Conway goes off on a geometrical bent : “It’s not a diameter pop record, it’s a circumference pop record.” I raise my eyebrows. “It goes around and around instead of cutting to the heart of anything,” she says by way of clarification.
So what shape was her last album, Bitch Epic ? “Like ab isosceles triangle. All the albums are different but they’ve all grown out of each other. Nothing comes of nothing, as Julie Andrews once said.”
She like London. She loves the easy accessibility to alternative culture and exotic European cities. “But I like Australia for different reasons,” she is quick to add. “There’s no traffic, the air is clean, the beaches are unsurpassable, the food is fanstastic and it’s so cheap compared to over there.” She smiles again. “See how optimistic I am See what a positive human being I can be?”