There are days when everything gets on top of you, and you find yourself feeling that worrying sense of vertigo, even as you know that you’re standing upright and theoretically perfectly fine. On those days, dear friends, Martina Topley-Bird has this song for you, a simple one in which she reminds you that – like herself, of course – you should consider yourself too tough to die. If you don’t find yourself wanting to sing along to the chorus of this one, I suspect you need a whole lot more self-belief.
(I love the lyrics of this song; “The strange fruit swing” is a wonderful euphemism that plays off the Billie Holliday song, and yet brings a really strange sense of bleak humor to it. The swing? Really?)
And if Martina’s version isn’t enough for you, maybe you need this spectacular cover from Neneh Cherry and the Thing, from earlier this year:
Holy moley. More songs should sound like the sound of a messy, violent fight inside your head.
I can remember seeing Tricky at some festival – T-in-the-Park, probably – back in the ’90s, just after the first album had come out and being just completely transfixed by Martina Topley-Bird, her stage presence and voice and the fact that there seemed something unworldly about her. She was, in many ways, the heart of Tricky 1.0, and as that act/performer/group/whatever fell apart (Seriously, that third album? Not so good), she was what I found myself missing the most. Cut to years later, and this song from her second solo album: There’s a lightness on it that betrays the touch of producer Danger Mouse, but the retro girlband sound works here – There’s something suitably dreamy about the way it shimmies around Topley-Bird’s vocal, all handclaps and tinkling synthetic ivories, disguising the sadness at the heart of the lyrics (“Baby blue/I don’t know what you do when you call to me,” she sings, apparently about a boy who’s oblivious to what’s really going on in her heart and her mind).
Topley-Bird’s solo stuff is disappointing in its unevenness, but when it’s like this, I find myself wanting more.