Chan Marshall's newest song as Cat Power ends with an ambiguous promise: "I could never forget." It's ambiguous because the track, "Bully," which she performed with a pianist last night on BBC's Later... With Jools Holland (via Pitchfork) and now released on iTunes, is gorgeously, deeply tragic. That's there in the sparse, aching piano chords, and her smoky, poised vocal. But it's also there in the lyrics: She remembers the good times, being 27 and dancing at bars, drinking too much. And she remembers the male subject of the song getting sick, escaping "in a hospital sheet," smiling. Always smiling.
Marshall smiled sometimes on Holland, too. It wasn't anything like the giddy grins in her recent, wonderful "Manhattan" video. But it only made the performance more powerful. "Nothing could be done / For this young wild son," she rasped slightly, with an affecting twang. After a few years when there's been a rash of bullying-themed pop songs, fine pop songs with "it gets better" themes by Ke$ha, Katy Perry, and others, Marshall's decision to change the word into a term of endearment for a lost, special person, one who could be "cruel" and "mean" but was also her narrator's "best friend," hits you right in the gut. And the chest.
Reunited Britpop icons Suede also performed on Holland last night, playing "It Starts and Ends With You" from new album Bloodsports. Frontman Brett Anderson spoke recently with SPIN's David Marchese about how the group also known (for boring legal reasons) as the London Suede has made its way through a ceaselessly shifting music landscape. Watch their Holland performance, filled with charmingly gawky dancing, below.