Billie Ray Martin vs Repulsion...
In an occasional series of guest postings here is Darren's review of Billie Ray Martin at the ICA last month.
ICA Saturday 4th January
The ICA’s series of screenings of classic films with new live soundtracks has produced such gems as Ladytron scoring cult sci-fi flick ‘Tron’ and Gorodisch providing a musical backdrop to 70’s horror movie ‘The Wicker Man’ however, the paring of onetime S-Express vocalist, former Electribe 101 front woman and ‘Your Loving Arms’ hit maker, Billie Ray Martin with Roman Polanski’s 1960’s hallucinatory psychological drama ‘Repulsion’ could only be described as sheer genius.
‘Repulsion’, a stunning portrait of the mental and emotional meltdown of a shy, young Belgian girl left alone in her sister’s Kensington flat, where she becomes reclusive and retreats into a terrifying world of fantasies and nightmares, lends itself perfectly to the lyrics of the German uber-diva’s songs of emotional torment, with her deliciously skewed view of love and lust perfectly marrying the themes of the film in which a sexually repressed Catherine Deneuve descends into madness.
‘Hello, Hold On’, from Billie’s 18-Carat Garbage album, contains the immortal line, “And no honey, you’re not insane, just Jackson Pollock in your brain” which for anyone familiar with the great artist’s work is pretty messed up and perfectly describes the young woman’s state of mind as she battles with her demons (Deneuve not Billie!).
Accompanied by a solitary keyboard player, the extremely talented Clifford Slapper (surely not his real name), Billie visibly delighted her fans with acoustic versions of songs from her repertoire including re-workings of Electribe 101’s ‘You’re Walking’ and ‘Talking With Myself’ and a beautifully stripped down version of her club classic ‘Your Loving Arms’, which would surely be a huge hit all over again if this touching rendition were to be released.
It was Billie’s inspired choice of cover versions however, that made this show so very special. The Carpenters ‘Rainy Days And Mondays’ and ‘Solitaire’, Liza Minielli’s ‘Losing My Mind’, Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’, This Mortal Coil’s ‘Song To The Siren’ and The Velvet Underground’s ‘Sunday Morning’, were all given the BRM treatment, delivered in her inimitable vocal style with a delightful mixture of humour and emotion, with the piece de resistance being her version of The Sparks ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ sublimely accompanying a scene were Deneuve murders her lecherous landlord with a cut-throat razor.
As Billie sang the melancholy ‘Heart’ from the 4 Ambient Tales E.P. and the film credits began to roll the appreciative audience at the ICA, which included DJ’s Wayne G, and Stewart Who? and Mark Moore from S-Express must have felt privileged to have witnessed what was one of those truly extraordinary events where what they had seen was both original and exciting and very, very special. Boyz scribe, Jack Hanley once said of Billie Ray Martin, “No-one seems to understand that one of the greatest soul voices of the 21st Century belongs to a stroppy white German bird.”, and this amazing show just goes to further prove that if there were any justice in the world the name Billie Ray Martin would be talked about in the same breath as the World’s greatest soul divas.
Juggy (I’m not biased) Jones