Beth Gibbons Lives Outgrown Review: A Devastating Portrait of Time’s Creep

The singer’s first official solo album is as captivating as it is devastating.

Beth Gibbons, Lives Outgrown
Photo: Netti Habel

Beth Gibbons’s first official solo effort, Lives Outgrown, picks up where Portishead’s 2008 album, Third, left off, with detail-rich orchestral chamber pop backing a stunning exploration of aging and grief. The singer’s existential fears about time’s creep and holding onto once-vibrant emotions and connections is as captivating as it is devastating.

Across the album’s 10 songs, Gibbons swims against life’s currents. Musically and thematically, she actively resists the dulling of sensation that, she suggests, comes with age: “I used to feel the feelings,” she sings on the unsettling “Burden of Life.” This song, like the album’s closer, “Whispering Love,” takes the perspective of someone reminiscing about a cozy summer, but they seem to be reflecting from a frigid, unforgiving place in life.

That tension is palpable throughout Lives Outgrown. Gibbons’s feelings about mortality—“Gone too far to rewind…We all know what’s coming,” she laments on “Rewind”—are accompanied by instruments that often seem to be at war with one another. The drums are frequently arrhythmic and asynchronous, as on “Burden of Life” and “Tell Me Who You Are Today.”


The percussion of those two tracks, courtesy of Talk Talk’s Lee Harris, comprise a thrilling array of textures, timbres, and proximities. They interlock and butt up against the guitars and strings that swell around them, evoking Gibbons’s determination to not let the slow deterioration of her body and mind get the best of her.

YouTube video

Lives Outgrown is a despairing portrait of growing old, dotted with bursts of hope and still-fiery conviction. Occasionally, joy bubbles up to the surface and Gibbons is able to resuscitate the vitality of her youth. “Don’t pretend you were unaware/Realize the tenderness/Appreciate the sweet caress,” she reminds herself and an estranged partner on “Lost Changes.”

An explosion of horns punctuates Gibbons’s naked declaration of dependence on “Reaching Out”: “Don’t need no other like I need you.” She’s able to ride a tenuous high on the luminous “Floating on a Moment,” a recognition that “all we have is here and now” that’s animated by the tinkling strains of a hammered dulcimer and a cherubic children’s choir.


Gibbons’s voice was often put to mischievous and even eerie effect amid dystopic instrumentation on Portishead tracks like “Numb” and “Half Day Closing.” Here, it’s allowed to more fully shine, and the increased emphasis is rewarding. On songs like “Oceans,” she’s hoarse and wearied in one moment while displaying impressive stamina, with long, drawn-out notes, in others. Her performance embodies the line “And I’ll feel the length of emotion.”

Indeed, Gibbons concludes on a note of mostly peaceful acceptance that one’s satisfaction with life—and relationships in particular—can ebb and flow. “Whispering Love” movingly invites love to come and go as it pleases. Lives Outgrown presents an artist whose capabilities have been sharply honed, with the skill to convey all of life’s complicated, thorny emotions.

 Label: Domino  Release Date: May 17, 2024  Buy: Amazon

Charles Lyons-Burt

Charles Lyons-Burt covers the government contracting industry by day and culture by night. His writing has also appeared in Spectrum Culture, In Review Online, and Battleship Pretension.


  1. “Lives Outgrown is a despairing portrait of growing old…” Is Ms Gibbons referring to herself? She’s only 59. Paul McCartney is 81 yet he hasn’t resorted to maudlin self-pity about his great age. Aren’t we supposed to gain in wisdom what we lose in youth?

    • I am experiencing in my early twenties. I no longer feel my feelings the way I used to as a kid or even a teen; and going through life, the paint is only going to dry further. This is how I see it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

Iglooghost Tidal Memory Exo Review: A Hard-Hitting Genre Mash-Up

Next Story

Ani DiFranco Unprecedented Sh!t Review: A Passing of the Torch