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  • David Bentley

Marianne Sveen (Norway): 'How Come' (single from forthcoming album)

‘How Come’ is the second song from Marianne Sveen’s forthcoming debut album ‘Next Of Kin’ and as with the previous one, ‘Look Away’, displays a side to her song writing talents that were overlooked in her Katzenjammer days, a band which tended to write most of their songs in a major key, irrespective of the (sometimes quite serious) subject matter. She continues, as with her ex-colleague Sol Heilo, to put clear blue sky between her work in the band and their solo material, which is no bad thing, however much we love Katzenjammer.

About 18 months ago I interviewed Marianne in Oslo and I’m fairly sure this is the song, in its formative stage at the time, which I heard through headphones on that day. She has a fascinating history outside of music, having been a psychiatric nurse (the Katzenjammer song ‘Lady Grey’ refers to the first dementia patient who came under her care) and she took a trip out to Iraq to help at a refugee camp there. I believe she is doing some nursing again now.

She has a particular thing about bullying, too. In the interview she said it is an important issue to her because of the patients she meets, in the age range 18-62. Many of them with serious psychological challenges have been bullied at some time in their life. She said that while it has never happened to her she did feel excluded at times as a child but was fortunate to always have friends to play with. But not everyone has that and that fact influences her outlook on the matter. She referred to a family member, an older woman, who is still haunted by having been bullied 60 years ago.

So that is what the song is about. She says, “When you're bullied, picked on or left out and no-one ever interferes, the same voices that pick on you might haunt you for the rest of your life. The bullying kind of never ends, and you might always wonder why no-one ever found you important enough to stick up for. And the feeling of eternal worthlessness becomes overwhelming. Because that’s the thing with bullying and exclusion. It doesn’t only hurt when it happens. It can last a lifetime. That’s one of the things that have made the biggest impact on me while working with mental health. Thinking about all of the beautiful souls that might have been rescued if the bullying never started in the first place”.

It’s piano-led rather than acoustic guitar-led as the previous track was. Opening with the line that was Antony and the Johnson’s 2005 Mercury Prize winning album title is a great start and the lyric is cutting throughout. “I’m a bird now…I can hang out in the branches of the tree I used to be…though my bark is paper thin and I’m unsteady in the wind”.

The question of ‘how come’ no-one put a stop to it is a constant refrain, reflective of a society where it is all too easy to walk away, one which has lost its moral compass.

Add to this thoughtful allegory a beautifully simple two-chord theme that persists throughout and which infuriatingly reminds you of something but you just can’t place it, some glorious harmonies and an appropriately ‘raw’ recording and you have the complete package.

There are a handful of songs that have tackled this delicate social issue, and especially where it applies to children, in a memorable fashion. I’m thinking especially of Christine and the Queens’ ‘Saint Claude’, Johanna Brun’s ‘Bird’ and Nightwish’s ‘Eva’, the latter two of which we featured in NMR about a year ago.

The best complement I can pay Marianne is that ‘How Come’ is right up there with all of them.

‘Next of kin’ has been delayed by the pandemic but hopefully will be released before too long. As soon as it is, be assured the review will be winging your way.

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