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Friday 25 January 2013

I V (intravenous): Diana Darby Crafts Her Very Own Colossus On Fourth Album Of Dark Gems

The floorboards creak. The windows flap back and forth in the pre-storm breeze. There's something in the walls; the ghost of an event long since played out to its grizzly conclusion. And all the while the Dansette plays the filmic and captivating new album, I V (intravenous), by Diana Darby.

Welcome to the hauntingly beautiful, strange and unsettling world of the Nashville-based one-take queen. 

She"s the modern day equivalent of Sylvia Plath; poking a lyrical stick into the dark woods of our darkest consciousness. 

This isn"t pop, this isn"t some cheap commercial-baiting wannabe. This is the soundtrack to what comes after the party years. This is the comedown. This is the truth lying bloody and convulsing by the side of the crossroads. 

Diana Darby"s last seven years – the time it has taken her to follow-up the majestic The Magdalene Laundries – have been littered with both catastrophes and misfortune.

She sustained neck and back injuries after being rear-ended in a hit and run. Her constant canine companion, Trouble, died suddenly, and her parents fell victim to the ravages of old age.

Darby said back in 2005 that she writes because her upbringing "was a nightmare."

She continued: "My first love is poetry. But poets don"t make any money, (not that songwriters do either) so I chose song writing because it combines the best of both worlds for me… poetry and music. But I don"t consider myself just a songwriter. I think of myself as a writer."

This would explain her Plath-like turns of phrase. On I V (intravenous) opener "Trouble", the scene is set in the first verse: You are / looking for trouble / Looking for trouble / In this world .. before the unsettling payoff: .. You think / He will come to you / But you / Don't know what he'll do.

Even love doesn"t get the candyfloss and summer sun treatment. On 'If Love', our protagonist asks: If love were a girl / Would you mock her in vain / If love fell apart / Would you sew her again. The unseemly side of love, maybe. But the honest line, definitely. 

But it"s on the album"s standout cut, 'Heaven', that Darby seemingly soundtracks Jeanette Winterson"s recent revelatory autobiographical tale of childhood mental abuse. 

In Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Winterson graphically details how she was beaten, she was often hungry, she was left all night on the doorstep and that she was not well loved.

The first verse of 'Heaven' reads: My mother tells me I will go to Hell /  My mother tells me that I won't be saved / My mother tells me that she is afraid / That I won't go to Heaven / I won't go to Heaven.

But it"s thanks to Darby"s understated melodies that the album"s strong lyrical content is able to shine through. 

She gently weaves her electric guitar lines behind her hushed vocal tones. It is a credit to all involved that it takes a look at the sleeve notes to reveal that it"s not a solo affair, but that in fact five other musicians are involved.

 I V (intravenous) is a medicine that needs to be taken as a whole. It drifts, but never plods. 

All the pieces fit together and as a body of work it lives up to Darby"s own take on her sound: "Fragile, delicate, quiet. In the realm of Nick Drake." Add to that majestic and thought provoking, and you have the modern day Darby all sewn-up (as if!).

Diana Darby's 'I V (intravenous)' is out now .. see for more details.

by: Mike Cobley

Related links

Diana Darby


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