Jenny Hval – Viscera

Lordy, barely a minute in to the opener Engines in The City and this girl’s talking about giving her clitoris one with an electric toothbrush.


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Lordy, barely a minute in to the opener Engines in The City and this girl’s talking about giving her clitoris one with an electric toothbrush. I kid you not. Still, it helps that, mention of sex organs aside, Miss Hval has a way of holding your attention, namely through her remarkably adaptable and strikingly arch voice; one that flits between a veritable folio of operatic, thespian and rock styles, the latter very much aping Patti Smith. There’s a nod to Gilly Smyth in there too. 


Viscera is also is very actressy and pretentious in the way that can drive you up the wall:  songs with titles like How Gentle, and A Silver Fox sound like you’d expect – they’re good, but you know what you will get both from the music and lyrics, but overall, Hval pulls the whole vamp thing off pretty well. She has set big horizons, and she does all she can to stop the record resting in a particular spot. It’s great, for instance, that she follows up Engines in The City with a tough and determined track like Blood Fight, which is about as precious and brittle as a combine harvester. It’s a cold and harsh piece, adept at changing tempo, almost with the intent to annoy or to startle, or seeming not to care. However, some of the tracks do tend – whether through a lack of structure, or discipline, turn into extended mood pieces rather than songs - This is a Thirst is more a soliloquy for the stage than a song for a record. And that can annoy.


But when it goes well, Viscera rocks out in the most splendid, uncaring way. It’s a very untrendy record. Portrait of a Young Girl as an Artist verges on Gong territory before blasting off like a huge Gothic funeral pyre. Golden Locks and Milk of Marrow are a sublime mixes of dippy diva vocals and a smouldering folksy laments, they’re marvellous.


At its best, Viscera is mood rock extraordinaire with plenty of pep.