Richard Thompson, “Broken Doll” from Still (2015): One Track Mind

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Richard Thompson’s enduring ability to frame heartbreak, to conjure the hurtful silence at the end of a relationship and the angry passions that inevitably follow, gives substance to this song’s ruminative intro. “Broken Doll,” like his best work, begins with roiling emotions — reticence mixed with an almost painful need, a dissatisfied lover who nevertheless can’t untangle himself.

The title makes clear what his careful examination has found, that their relationship is — no matter it’s pretty appearance from far away — lined with unfixable fissures. As his gaze focuses more intently, Richard Thompson takes the entire thing apart at these seams, piece by agonizing piece.

And he does it, at least at first, inside a scarifyingly lean musical space. Thompson’s voice is the central character, his words your only guide. But then, “Broken Doll” — another advance song from Richard Thompson’s forthcoming Still — begins to swirl with a new musical emotion, as well-placed strings gird the narrative. The other side of this anger, the fertile lonesomeness from which bitterness grows, becomes more clear. In keeping, Richard Thompson’s guitar takes a mournful, desperate tone.

When the lyric returns on “Broken Doll,” there’s a broader context for everything Thompson shares. His dark intentions, the steely precision with which he carves everything up, are revealed once more not as the tantrums of an unknowable ex but as a last, awful raging against the dying of the light.

Richard Thompson’s ‘Still,’ a Jeff Tweedy-produced 12-song release, is due on June 29, 2015 via Proper Records. The deluxe edition will also include music from a previously unreleased five-song session.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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